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Columbia Law School

Evidence

2012

Criminal Procedure

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Full-Text Articles in Law

The Evidence Of Things Not Seen: Non-Matches As Evidence Of Innocence, James S. Liebman, Shawn Blackburn, David Mattern, Jonathan Waisnor Jan 2012

The Evidence Of Things Not Seen: Non-Matches As Evidence Of Innocence, James S. Liebman, Shawn Blackburn, David Mattern, Jonathan Waisnor

Faculty Scholarship

Exonerations famously reveal that eyewitness identifications, confessions, and other “direct” evidence can be false, though police and jurors greatly value them. Exonerations also reveal that “circumstantial” non-matches between culprit and defendant can be telling evidence of innocence (e.g., an aspect of an eyewitness’s description of the perpetrator that does not match the suspect she identifies in a lineup, or a loose button found at the crime scene that does not match the suspect’s clothes). Although non-matching clues often are easily explained away, making them seem uninteresting, they frequently turn out to match the real culprit when exonerations ...