Eyewitness Identification: Live, Photo, and Video Lineups

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Abstract

The medium used to present lineup members for eyewitness identification varies according to the location of the criminal investigation. Although in some jurisdictions live lineups remain the default procedure, elsewhere this practice has been replaced with photo or video lineups. This divergence leads to two possibilities: Either some jurisdictions are not using the lineup medium that best facilitates accurate eyewitness identification or the lineup medium has no bearing on the accuracy of eyewitness identification. Photo and video lineups are the more practical options, but proponents of live lineups believe witnesses make better identification decisions when the lineup members are physically present. Here, the authors argue against this live superiority hypothesis. To be superior in practice, the benefits of live presentation would have to be substantial enough to overcome the inherent difficulties of organizing and administering a live lineup. The review of the literature suggests that even in experimental settings, where these difficulties can be minimized, it is not clear that live lineups are superior. The authors conclude that live lineups are rarely the best option in practice and encourage further research to establish which nonlive medium provides the best balance between probative value and practical utility.

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