Wrongfully convicted Oklahomans call for eyewitness identification reforms
oklahoma City, Okla. (KOKH) —
State lawmakers may soon take action to protect innocent Oklahomans from going to prison.
An Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee met Monday, to hear from those who have been wrongfully convicted after being misidentified by eyewitnesses.
Timothy Durham spent four years in an Oklahoma prison. he was accused of horrific sex crimes against a young girl. Eyewitnesses said it was him but DNA evidence later proved his innocence.
"Anything that I can do to prevent this from happening to anyone else ever again is just a duty that I feel that I have," Durham said.
Timothy Durham is not alone. One third of all wrongful convictions in the state of Oklahoma are because of bad eyewitness testimony. It's also costing taxpayers. Oklahoma has already paid $1.36 million to six people that were wrongfully convicted, because of eyewitness identification. That does not include the civil suits that followed.
"There's not always DNA in every case and so law enforcement falls back on where their evidence lies and sometimes it can be a mis-identification by means of an eye witness," says Vicki Behenna, executive director of Oklahoma Innocence Project.
At a meeting Monday, new training methods were discussed with a senate committee. The Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training discussed additional training methods that would prevent these wrongful convictions. They say it would only add one day to an officers training.
Senator David Holt (R) says the state needs to take advantage of that program.
"At the end of the day the best practices are not adopted in training we will come back and we will pass legislation and we will make it happen," he said.