Instructions to the Witness

The instructions given to a witness prior to the presentation of a lineup have an important influence on how the witness views the identification task and how the witness makes a decision whether to make an identification or whom to identify.

Biased versus Unbiased Instructions

Because the suspect in the lineup may be innocent, it is important that police officers instruct the witnesses that the actual perpetrator may or may not be in the lineup and that they are not obligated to make an identification. Because these instructions are unbiased with respect to the presence or absence of the perpetrator, they are typically called unbiased instructions. In contrast, instructions that explicitly state or imply that the perpetrator is in the lineup and that the witness should make ...

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