Bill to Reduce Wrongful Convictions, Make Showups More Fair Clears House

DENVER, CO– The House today passed HB21-1142, legislation sponsored by Representative Bacon that would ensure fairness in police showups and reduce wrongful convictions based on unreliable identifications. 

“When most people hear about a showup, they think of Law and Order or other police shows, but in reality, these practices are often abused in unfair ways that lead to convictions based on unreliable identifications of people who did not commit a crime,” said Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver. “Charles Battle spent six months trying to clear his name for a crime he did not commit. We cannot allow bias in eyewitness identifications and unreliable showup practices to ruin people’s lives. There have been too many times where law enforcement has unfairly influenced the outcome of the process by engaging in tactics like dressing suspects in the specific clothes described by a witness or even asking the individual in custody to speak a certain way.”

A showup is a tactic used by law enforcement to identify a suspect. An eyewitness is asked if the lone individual in police custody is the person they saw commit the crime. It is not the same as a lineup where an eyewitness chooses a suspect from a group of individuals.

The Battle family has worked closely with the Denver Police Department to help develop new procedures for showups. The bill was developed in close collaboration with police chiefs and community leaders and passed on a bipartisan vote of 45-17. It requires law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies and procedures aligning their use of show-ups with research-based best practices. This includes explaining the parameters of the protocol to the eyewitness, not making suggestive comments, separating eyewitnesses from one another if there are multiple, and obtaining the services of an interpreter when appropriate. 

HB21-1142 also directs law enforcement to collect specific information on each showup, including the date and location, the individual’s gender and race, and whether the technique leads to an identification. It would also prohibit courts from admitting evidence from a showup unless the court finds the showup was conducted according to Colorado law. 

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