New legislature would fight to reduce wrongful convictions

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017
By Mike Vasilinda,  WJHG

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Capitol News Desk) – Alan Crotzer was convicted of a strong arm robbery in 1983 even though he never matched the height or weight first described by the only eyewitness.

“From the beginning, I did not fit the description,” said Crotzer.

An Innocence Commission study in 2011 found that three out of four people released by DNA exonerations were sent to prison by faulty eyewitness testimony.

“So, we want to make sure the right person is convicted,” said State Representative Gayle Harrell.

Now, Harrell wants to fix the problem by requiring police to use officers unfamiliar with the crime or suspect when conducting photo or live lineups.

“You would have to have an independent administrator handle it, so anyone working on the case would not know who is there and would not be able to influence in any way at all,” Harrell said.

Police agencies that don’t adopt the standards wouldn’t face a penalty, but defense attorneys would be allowed to raise their non-compliance at trial.

Nancy Daniels spent 26 years as a Public Defender. She said the change is a big deal.

“And even if the judge allows the evidence, it can be presented to the jury, so they know the procedures now required by law were not used,” Daniels said.

And neither the police chiefs or sheriffs are objecting.

“We certainly don’t want anyone who is innocent to be tried and convicted,” said Jerry Demings, who is the president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association.

And Harrell is quick to point out, catching the right person the first time makes everyone safer.

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