The following is from The Introduction, Part A of the Identification Report. This Report was originally published by the Temple Law Review (citations omitted).
A. Preface: The Creation, Composition, and Purview of the Task Force
The Third Circuit Task Force on Eyewitness Identifications (Task Force) was created, in part, in response to the scientific developments in the field of eyewitness identification and the recognition that courts had begun to apply these developments in criminal cases The Task Force was co-chaired by the Honorable Theodore A. McKee, Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the Honorable Mitchell S. Goldberg, Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Task Force was charged with making recommendations “to promote reliable practices for eyewitness investigation and to effectively deter unnecessarily suggestive identification procedures, which raise the risk of wrongful conviction.” At the time the Task Force was formed, no other federal court had undertaken such a project on eyewitness identification.
Its diverse members included three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (including Judge McKee), district judges from almost every district within the Third Circuit, an internationally prominent Chief of Police who is a member of the board of directors of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, nationally prominent academicians and researchers with expertise in the area of eyewitness identification, an Assistant United States Attorney, a former Chief Federal Public Defender, a Supervising Deputy Attorney General who serves as Deputy Chief of the Prosecutors Supervision and Training Bureau for the state of New Jersey, and an Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Task Force met as a whole and in subcommittees, drafted provisional reports, and ultimately adopted this Report. To the extent that Task Force members disagree with portions of this Report, their disagreement is noted.
In order to better “drill down” on topics of interest, the Task Force members were divided into four subcommittees—Scientific Consensus, Best Practices, Continuing Education, and Jury Instructions.
The subcommittee on Scientific Consensus was tasked with identifying and summarizing the currently accepted science on the subject of eyewitness identifications. This subcommittee was chaired by the Honorable Timothy R. Rice, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The subcommittee was composed of Police Chief William G. Brooks, III; Dr. Jennifer E. Dysart; Professor Jules Epstein; and Professor John F. Hollway.
The Best Practices subcommittee was tasked with identifying practices that law enforcement agencies can use to minimize the likelihood of mistaken identifications. The Best Practices subcommittee was chaired by Police Chief Brooks. The subcommittee was composed of the Honorable Jerome B. Simandle, who was then the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; Judge Rice; Supervising Deputy Attorney General Robert Czepiel Jr.; Professor Hollway; Assistant United States Attorney Robert F. Kravetz; then-Federal Defender James V. Wade; and FBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Christian Zajac.
The Continuing Education subcommittee was tasked with envisioning a repository of information to be used as a resource for attorneys and judges. This subcommittee was co-chaired by Professors Epstein and Hollway. It was composed of Judge McKee; the Honorable L. Felipe Restrepo, Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; the Honorable Wilma A. Lewis, Chief Judge of the United States District Court of the Virgin Islands; the Honorable Cathy Bissoon, United States District Court Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania; the Honorable Yvette Kane, United States District Court Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; Judge Simandle; Dr. Dysart, and Dr. Amanda Bergold.
The Jury Instructions subcommittee was tasked with assessing the efficacy of the Third Circuit’s current jury instructions on eyewitness testimony and, if appropriate, suggesting changes to those instructions. This subcommittee was co-chaired by Judge Restrepo and Judge Goldberg. The subcommittee was composed of Judge McKee; the Honorable Patty Shwartz, Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; the Honorable Gregory M. Sleet, Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Delaware; Professor Epstein; Professor Hollway; and Mr. Kravetz.
The research that was reviewed by these subcommittees included peer reviewed studies, generally accepted best practices for law enforcement investigations and identification procedures, expert trial testimony, and model jury instructions from federal and state courts. All Task Force members were also encouraged to consult with experts in the field of eyewitness identification and to solicit critical review and input from recognized scholars in this area, as deemed appropriate. While the Task Force was empowered to hear testimony, it determined that hearings were unnecessary because sufficient information was readily available in the legion of scientific studies and reports that already existed on eyewitness identifications as well as through consultation with noted experts.
The work of the Task Force took place from October 2016 through the publication of this Report in 2019. In the interim, the subcommittees met separately, drafted provisional reports on their respective areas of study, and presented them for adoption by the full Task Force.
Read the full report here.