Ledbetter Resurfaces, with Teeth

An interesting case came down earlier this month from an appellate court in New Jersey, in which a conviction was overturned for the failure to give jury instructions on a collection of issues relating to a faulty eyewitness identification. Not surprisingly, the court in State v. King (Westlaw — acct. required) didn’t find Manson to possess enough force to keep a bad ID out of court, but it did find that the great Ledbetter decision from Connecticut had teeth enough to overturn the conviction for failure to instruct the jury on the eyewitness ID pitfalls at play in the case.

The court found that the police investigators conducting the lineup “may have suggested” that their suspect was in the lineup, did not instruct that the perpetrator might or might not be present, and where the witness’ description included a facial marking, only the defendant’s photo matched that description, showing a noticeable scar. Citing Ledbetter and the NJ Supreme Court’s Herrera decision, the court found that instructions on suggestivity and other procedural flaws were warranted, and reversed on those grounds.

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