Story of the Day

Yeah, the Pulp is returning to its roots today with this selection, and it's definitely worth it. The Palm Beach Post's Susan Spencer-Wendel gives us a damn good look at what appears to be a damn bad arrest that was based on a damn biased photo lineup.

First there was a driveby murder in West Palm Beach. Then there was another shooting of a man named Brandon Williams, who was only slightly injured. Detectives thought Williams matched the description of the murderer. Let Spencer-Wendel take it from here:

The detectives took photos of Williams: One with his hair pulled back, a second with it loose, inches of curls springing out all over his head. Despite his shock of hair and mustache, he was a prime suspect.

Within hours, a task force analyst assembled a six-photo lineup with Williams' on the bottom left, position No. 4. He is clearly the lightest-skinned black man in the array.

"It looks like a spotlight shining on my client," defense attorney James Eisenberg would later argue.

It was a picture taken more than five years earlier for Williams' Florida ID card. The National Institute of Justice guide recommends investigators select a photo that shows the suspect's appearance at the time of the crime. It also recommends that no photo in the lineup stand out in any way.

Eyewitness Freeman looked at that color lineup less than 24 hours after she saw the shooter. Without hesitation, she pointed out position No. 4, Williams, according to a police report.

"This was the

person that I saw," she said, according to a brief statement recorded by a detective at the time.

Williams was charged with first-degree murder, but the witness, Kendra Freeman, began to realize she had picked the wrong man. The killer had a close cut. Williams had longish twists. Couldn't be the same guy and she had the honesty and strength to say so in court.

We don't like to think about it, but this kind of thing happens way too much, as the Innocence Project that Spencer-Wendel mentions in the story shows us. But how many bad cases haven't been overturned or found out? How man people are sitting in jail right now on murders and shootings they didn't commit? Chilling questions that everybody should be concerned about answering.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman