The Perry v. New Hampshire case, I found, is more unique than I initially imagined. Through an interview with a civil attorney (who has a perspective all his own on criminal cases), I was able to pick up on portions of the court opinion that I could not have easily noticed on my own. For instance, my source highlighted that the identification was unconventional because the eyewitness identified the robbery suspect, Barion Perry, without being explicitly prompted by the police. In short, the police asked the witness to describe the person she saw robbing the car in the street below, after which the witness pointed outside her window, into the darkness, and at Perry.
If Perry is indeed a unique case, then that leaves me with the problem of finding more common cases involving potentially unreliable eyewitness identification evidence.
Through an interview this afternoon with a couple of local detectives, I also discovered that, despite what I've read in countless periodicals, police departments aren't all reluctant to adopt identification techniques that have been recommended by criminal psychologists and their research. Although the detectives were unable to speak for the departments in other states, they both felt that the department and Oregon in general is doing a "fairly good job" of carrying out ID procedures.
Although police departments in Oregon are not mandated to follow certain procedures in conducting identification lineups or photo arrays, New Jersey departments recently adopted two techniques that have been supported by research - the double blind technique and the sequential lineup. The double blind technique is when a lineup or photo array is conducted by a person who is not working on the case and hence does not know who the suspect is. The sequential lineup technique, on the other hand, presents witnesses with photos or actual people, one after the other. According to research, sequential presentation reduces the risk of bias due to relative judgment. In layman's terms, presenting photos one after the other disables witnesses from making comparisons between the photos and to focus instead on the photograph that is accurate (not just the most accurate).
Researching Tip of the Week:
- It might be near impossible to find information on attorneys or detectives. ZoomInfo may be a good place to start to look for information, but that information should always be confirmed with the person himself or herself. Hence, it may just be a good idea to call and ask!
Special! Interviewing Tips:
1. End your conversation with: Can you recommend someone I should talk to next? and Can I contact you if I have any further questions?
It helps to try all outlets and to get as many connections as possible. There should be no dead ends!
2. Be courteous and punctual.
3. Send your appreciation back! As I speak (type), I am writing thank you notes to my interviewees..
4. Plan what you are going to say ahead, but be prepared to make questions up as you go along and go off the beaten path.
I've noticed that rarely do I ever get through all of the interview questions I prepared in advance. The most important thing to plan out, though, is probably the first question to ask. From there, insert your other questions as they become appropriate in the conversation.
5. Strive to be neutral. Questions that you ask shouldn't be biased in the first place, but your own opinions and objectives should be somewhat neutral during an interview. This helps to open your mind to another valuable perspective that you may not have considered.
I have just one more interview to conduct (which I've scheduled for next week), and an observation. I am really starting to get attached to my topic.
Does familiarity create fondness? I wonder...