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University of Southern Mississippi Professor Collaborates with Houston Police for Eyewitness Research Study

Hattiesburg, MS (PRWEB) December 04, 2012

Dr. Thomas Payne, associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice at The University of Southern Mississippi, has teamed up with the Houston (Texas) Police Department to collect data for groundbreaking research into the best methods for conducting eyewitness lineups.

Payne has worked closely with Sgt. Stephen Morrison of the HPD to collect data that accurately portrays the effectiveness of methods utilized by police detectives to gather eyewitness evidence. Most U.S. law enforcement agencies use the simultaneous lineup, in which the eyewitness views a lineup of individuals at the same time. However, some research has indicated that a sequential lineup, in which photographs are presented to the witness one at a time, produces fewer false identifications.

“No one wants to see any person wrongfully convicted,” said Morrison. “Over the past years there has been an effort to create public policy on how police investigators collect eyewitness evidence, with the belief that some of the error occurs in the method of collecting eyewitness evidence. The Houston Police is seeking to find a ‘best practice’ solution from this research.”

More than 1,000 surveys were conducted and analyzed during the study and no mock lineups were used as part of the project. The objective is to ensure that the Houston Police Department employs the most impartial lineup procedure possible for eyewitness identification.

“That is the beauty and value of field research,” Payne said. “We used actual cases of robbery and the victims or other eyewitnesses. In Houston the robbery division investigates over 700 armed robberies a month. So we had plenty of opportunities to gather real world data in real time. Gathering data on the run, and those results, gives us a better barometer of what works and does not work in terms of practical procedures in the street and/or station house.”

Payne, who is also a former U.S. Attorney, designed a survey instrument that would reflect the most accurate and complete responses from individuals during a field test. He notes that preliminary results show no significant variance between simultaneous lineups and blind sequential lineups, which directly contradicts a stand taken by the Innocence Project, a national organization that has long contended that simultaneous lineups are inherently biased. The second phase of the study will being in January 2013.

“The second part will compare the ‘blind sequential’ method to the ‘blind simultaneous’ method and these two methods will be compared to the ‘non-blind simultaneous’ method used by the Houston Police Department,” said Morrison. “We are looking to determine if one method produces less false positives. We are also interested in determining if there is a loss in positive picks between methods.”

Morrison, who earned his doctorate in Administration of Justice at The University of Southern Mississippi in 2006, called Payne’s contributions to the project “invaluable.”

Payne suggests the data speaks for itself.

“We are searching for and believe we have found the best evidence-based procedure for controlling bias and ensuring the most effective and efficient eyewitness lineup procedures,” he said.

About The University of Southern Mississippi
Founded in 1910, The University of Southern Mississippi is a comprehensive doctoral and research-driven university with a proud history and an eye on the future. As one of only 34 institutions in the nation accredited in art, dance, music and theatre, we are a haven for creativity and artistic expression. A dual-campus university, Southern Miss serves students on campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, in addition to six teaching and research sites in Mississippi. We are among U.S. News & World Report’s most popular universities and recognized by The Princeton Review for our commitment to sustainability. Our Center for Undergraduate Research affords our students meaningful research opportunities, and as a proven leader in innovation, we conduct transformative research that translates into real-world solutions. In the classroom or lab, on the playing field, or in the performance hall, we strive to have a positive impact not only on our students, but also the world around us. Further information is found at


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