Adam Liptak who writes the Sidebar column for the New York Times reported on the case of Robert Rosario . Mr. Rosario was convicted of murder based upon the testimony of two witnesses who picked him out of a lineup. One problem existed . Mr Rosario claims to have been in Florida on the day the murder happened . Mr Rosario has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel . The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide next week if they are going to accept the case. The critical issue is what is expected of criminal defense lawyers in the performance of their representation.
Mr.Rosario’s case hinged on eyewitnesses testimony verses the alibi defense . Mr Rosario had two alibi witnesses appear at trial . However the prosecution convinced the jury they were not credible .The jury convicted Mr. Rosario based on the identification evidence.
Since the Innocence Project has been in existence , it has been determined that eyewitness identification is the most common cause of wrongful convictions. In fact , the first 200 DNA exonerations involved 158 convictions by eyewitness identification .
Here is what one Federal Court thought about eyewitness identification ;
As a federal appeals court put it in 1992, “Eyewitness evidence, uncorroborated by a fingerprint, gun, confession or co-conspirator testimony, is a thin thread to shackle a man.” It is also, the court said, “precisely the sort of evidence that an alibi defense refutes best.”
It appears there were at least seven other witnesses that could confirm Mr.Rosario was in Florida , but the lawyer did not interview or call them to the stand . In eyewitness identification , there should be some requirement of corroboration such as a co-defendant statement or some type of physical evidence.
In Tennessee , an accused is allowed to introduce expert testimony in the unreliability of eyewitness testimony at trial .