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A Better Partnership
November 13, 2017

MSC: Single photographic identification was unfairly suggestive

A single photographic identification of an alleged assailant rarely survives due process scrutiny.  And the Michigan Supreme court reinforced why in People v Thomas, Case No. 155245.  In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Court reversed a divided Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court's dismissal of the case because the victim's identification of the defendant from a single cell phone picture was unreliable.

We previously blogged about this case here.  Following a brief assault outside a gas station, the victim was shot and transported to the hospital.  A police officer arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and took a single picture of the defendant--who matched the generic physical description given by the victim--as he stood at the gas station.  Later at the hospital, the victim was shown the picture and was asked "was this the guy that shot you?"

In a short order, the Supreme Court noted that a "police officer showing a victim just a single photograph is one of the most suggestive photographic identification procedures that can be used."  Failing to find any of the "mortal exigenc[ies]" that might excuse such a suggestive procedure, the Court reversed and reinstated dismissal for a violation of due process.

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