FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                        Date: May 6, 2002

   Contact: Larry Golden, (217) 206-7885

               Bill Clutter, (800) 412-4809

National expert to discuss witness misidentification at UIS

SPRINGFIELD – “Witness Misidentification” will be discussed by Professor Gary L. Wells, a nationally recognized expert whose work focuses on the reliability of eyewitness identification, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9, in Public Affairs Center conference room H (lower level) on campus at the University of Illinois at Springfield. A reception will immediately follow the presentation; both are free and open to the public.

During the course of Wells’ presentation, students enrolled in UIS’ Legal Studies classes associated with the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project will share results of their work on the Keith Harris case.  Harris was convicted of attempted murder in 1989, based primarily on the eyewitness testimony of the victim.  He served 22 years in prison despite the fact that two other men later confessed to the crime and despite the testimony of two state crime investigators that they believed he was innocent.  Although Harris was placed on supervised release in 2000, he is presently seeking executive clemency.

UIS was recently recognized as having the only established undergraduate innocence project in the nation. Under the auspices of the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, Legal Studies students who are nearing completion of their undergraduate degrees provide research and investigative assistance to individuals who have been arrested, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned for crimes they most likely did not commit. Housed in UIS’ Center for Legal Studies, the program is modeled on Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School in New York.

Wells holds the title of Distinguished Professor at Iowa State University and is an internationally recognized scholar in scientific psychology whose studies of the reliability of eyewitness memory and misidentification are widely known. His article “Eyewitness Identification Procedures: Recommendations for Lineups and Photo Spreads,” published in Law and Human Behavior in 1998, was cited in Governor Ryan’s “Commission on Capital Punishment Report” as critical to its recommendations for changes in eyewitness identification procedures in the state of Illinois.

Wells’ studies demonstrate that rates of mistaken eyewitness identification can be exacerbated by methods police use in conducting lineups and photo spreads. His experiments led to the development of the sequential lineup and the use of double-blind techniques in lineup procedures, now increasingly accepted practices used by law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

A member of the U.S. Department of Justice group that developed the first set of national guidelines for eyewitness evidence, Wells co-chaired the panel that wrote the Justice Department’s training manual for law enforcement on the collection and preservation of eyewitness identification evidence.

While in Springfield, Wells will also hold a workshop on witness misidentification for members of the legal community on Thursday afternoon.

His appearance is sponsored by the UIS Legal Studies Department, the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, State of Illinois Office of State Appellate Defender, and the Illinois State Bar Association and is funded in part by a grant from the Illinois Campus Compact.

For more information, contact Larry Golden, professor of Political Studies and Legal Studies at UIS, at (217) 206-7885.