Criminal identification and the media
A gunman robbed a bank. No one saw him before he entered or after he left. The police soon arrived and canvassed the area. A witness, who lived behind the bank at the time, told the police he saw a car that resembled the defendant’s. The witness said the car looked like it needed a new muffler, and he saw it race through the alley. The witness also described the car as having a colored license plate tag advertising a car store. Through the distinctive tag, the police were able to trace ownership to the defendant. Based on the witness’s subsequent identification of the car, the police arrested the defendant later that afternoon.
The following morning, as one of the officers assembled a photo lineup, a teller from the bank telephoned and stated she had seen a report of the defendant’s arrest on television the previous night, and she believed he was the robber. The officer drove to the bank and took the teller’s statement. While there, another teller identified the defendant from a photo in a newspaper article about his arrest. She also gave the officer a written statement. A temporary at the bank also identified the defendant as the robber and gave her statement to the police. After these identifications, the officer never completed the lineup preparation because the police decided it would be futile. A few days later, the officer returned to the bank and showed one of the tellers a photograph of the defendant which she said depicted the robber.