CBS Miami recently reported that Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente “is on a crusade to change how courts treat eyewitness testimony.” (Read CBS article here). According to CBS’s report, Justice Pariente issued a strongly worded concurring opinion, and that opinion suggests “that the state’s approach lags decades behind scientific evidence.” In Charles Peterson v. State, Peterson appealed Pinellas Circuit Judge Allan’s denial of his motion to vacate his first degree murder conviction and sentence of death. Peterson’s case was the first time that Judge Linda Allan imposed a death sentence. The Tampa bay Times ran a story about it, (Read here). One of Peterson’s claims was that he had not received effective assistance of counsel because his attorney had not consulted with an eyewitness identification expert. Judge Pariente, although concurring with the majority opinion in affirming Judge Allan, wrote in her concurring opinion,
“However, because I am concerned that our prior jurisprudence has left the impression that testimony of an eyewitness identification expert is generally inadmissible, I write separately to explain why such testimony should be generally admissible to assist the jury in determining the reliability of eyewitness identifications, especially in cases resting substantially or entirely on eyewitness testimony. Specifically, I would adopt the rationale of the Supreme Court of Connecticut in State v. Guilbert, 49 A.3d 705, 720 (Conn. 2012), and conclude that this Court’s precedent, which suggests that factors affecting eyewitness testimony are within the common experience of jurors, is “out of step with the widespread judicial recognition that eyewitness identifications are potentially unreliable in a variety of ways unknown to the average juror.” Indeed, as noted in Guilbert, the widely accepted scientific research available today “convincingly demonstrates the fallibility of eyewitness identification testimony and pinpoints an array of variables that are most likely to lead to a mistaken identification.” Id. at 721. Accordingly, in cases involving eyewitness testimony, I encourage trial courts to truly exercise their discretion in determining whether to admit expert testimony on eyewitness identifications, which oftentimes has the potential to aid the jury in evaluating this extremely weighty evidence.”
Judge Pariente went on to say,
“As the Supreme Court of New Jersey recognized in State v. Delgado, 902 A.2d 888, 895 (N.J. 2006), “[m]isidentification is widely recognized as the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions in this country.” For that reason, the Innocence Commission appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to analyze the causes of wrongful convictions chose eyewitness misidentification as its first area of study. Florida Innocence Commission, Final Report to the Supreme Court of Florida 18 (2012). Indeed, citing analysis undertaken by the Innocence Project, the Florida Innocence Commission noted that eyewitness misidentification has played a role in more than seventy-five percent of convictions that were subsequently overturned through DNA testing. Id.”
Judge Quince joined Judge Pariente in her concurring opinion. Do you want to get a deep appreciation about how truly serious Judge Pariente’s call is that our justice system become more critically mindful about “eyewitness identification”, Please watch “The Trials of Darryl Hunt.”
The Late Maya Angelou endorsed a book written about this case, “Making Justice Our Business: The Wrongful Conviction of Darryl Hunt and the Work of Faith” by Stephen B. Boyd,
“I recommend this book as an important read for every American citizen. “
After anyone sees this documentary, it is a shame that legislative attempts in Florida to institute reforms on eyewitness identification have failed, CS/CS/SB 1206. The Palm Beach Post wrote an article about the bill while it was pending, (Read here).