Connecticut Supreme Court Declines to Rule on Important Innocence Issue

August 24th, 2010

This week, the Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously upheld J’Veil Outing’s 2005 murder conviction. Outing was linked to the murder by two eyewitnesses, who have both since recanted. No scientific or ballistic evidence links Outing to the crime.

Outing wanted to introduce expert testimony about the unreliability of eyewitness identifications. The testimony would have focused on recent scientific studies pointing out why witnesses sometimes erroneously identify the wrong people as suspects.

The four-justice majority believes that this case is not the right one to introduce such testimony, because other factors were more important to the verdict. The court said the exclusion of the testimony was “harmless error”, because the jury could use their common sense to make the determinations themselves about the unreliability of the eyewitness. The majority relied on a 25-year old precedent holding that such testimony is not mandatory.

Three justices challenged the majority’s view, claiming that relying on such an old ruling was potentially prejudicial to defendants. Justice Flemming Norcott Jr. wrote, “I simply do not think it appropriate or wise to wait for the ‘right’ record to come before us before we act to correct this dangerously outmoded body of case law.”

The unreliability of eyewitness testimony has recently been gaining media attention. Some attorneys believe the Supreme Court will address this issue sometime in the near future.

Reitz, Stephanie. “Conn. high court upholds murder conviction” Read the article.