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Neil V. Biggers Criteria for Evaluating Eyewitness Identification

In its 1972 ruling in Neil v. Biggers, the U.S. Supreme Court outlined five criteria that should be used in evaluating the accuracy of eyewitness identifications: the witness's certainty, his or her quality of view, the amount of attention paid to the culprit, the agreement between the witness's description and the suspect, and the amount of time between the crime and the identification attempt. For many reasons, these criteria are suboptimal. Some of them directly contradict empirical research, and others can actually be misleading under certain circumstances. Preferable methods for evaluating accuracy include assessing the suggestiveness of the identification procedure, including the instructions given to the witness; examining the structure of the lineup or photo spread; and checking whether the person administering the photo spread ...

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