Cross-Racial Identification of Defendants in Criminal Cases - A Proposed Model Jury Instruction

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2008


While testifying on the stand during a recent misdemeanor trial in Maryland, a Hispanic eyewitness pointed to the defense table and identified a young African American as the perpetrator. The eyewitness, however, got it wrong. The young man he identified as the perpetrator was actually a law student who was representing the defendant also African American as part of a law school clinic. More remarkable was the fact that the eyewitness had identified the defendant as the perpetrator in a pretrial statement, making note that he had known the individual in question for at least three years. The result? An immediate dismissal of the charges.