How one man is redesigning the witness identification process to prevent wrongful convictions.
With each step he takes down the bright hallway inside the Austin Police Department’s headquarters, the tall man in the white dress shirt and blue slacks looks more nervous. Next to him, a shorter, broad-shouldered detective named Derek Israel tries to calm him. Just look at a few pictures in a photo lineup, Israel says. “I’ll try,” the man says, “but don’t expect too much from me.”
Gary Wells kicks his feet up on a large wooden table in his conference room on the fourth floor of Iowa State University’s psychology building. He’s in his early 60s, favors professorial cardigans, and after more than three decades of research pulls no punches when criticizing police methodology. “The modern detective? His posture is my posture right here,” he says, leaning back with an attitude that could be called complacent. “He is too eager to use an imperfect tool.” In this case, that tool is haphazardly designed photo lineups.