Do identification lineups happen in the military?
Yes. The Military Rules of Evidence (M.R.E.) state that a relevant out-of-court identification of any person is admissible in a court-martial, as long as it is in compliance with the M.R.E. This includes identification lineups. Lineups might be ordered by an investigative agency and can include live lineups of individuals, photographic lineups or even voice lineups. Typically, in a lineup an eyewitness or an alleged victim are shown several individuals and they are directed to identify the person who allegedly committed the offense. If a lineup is directed, an accused is absolutely entitled to have counsel present during the lineup. If the lineup is done properly, and the witness identifies an accused during the lineup, that evidence may be admissible at the court-martial. In order for this out-of-court testimony to be admissible at the court-martial however, the lineup must be “reliable.” One of the ways a lineup might be deemed unreliable by a military judge is if the investigative agency designs the lineup in a way that it “suggests” that the witness or victim select the servicemember who is already suspected of committing the offense. In other words, the witness making the identification cannot be nudged in any one direction. One way that this “nudging” might occur is if the investigative agency has the accused lined up against people who look nothing like him. If the witness has described a man with a beard, then all the men in the lineup should have beards. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) is in the process of reviewing United States v. Hendrix right now, which is a case that involves a voice lineup. In this case, a young girl alleged that a man came into her room at night and sexually assaulted her. She alleged that the man spoke to her and asked her not to tell anyone what had happened. After the girl alleged that Specialist (SPC) Hendrix was the person who assaulted her, the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) ordered SPC Hendrix to come to their office to have his voice recorded. SPC Hendrix brought his counsel with him for the recording. Then, at a later date after CID had collected other voice recordings, CID had the girl listen to the recordings and identify the voice of her alleged perpetrator. The girl picked SPC Hendrix’s recorded voice during the voice lineup. Defense objected to the voice lineup stating that the CID agent who conducted the lineup made no effort to seek out voices similar to SPC Hendrix’s. Also, defense stated that the alleged victim claimed that her perpetrator whispered that night and therefore recording voices in a normal speaking tone was improper and irrelevant to the case. The defense motion to suppress the voice lineup evidence was denied by the military judge. The Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) agreed with the military judge’s decision and affirmed the court-martial findings and sentence. Now CAAF is going to review this decision and determine if the out-of-court identification should have been admissible at the court-martial. Identification lineups can produce some very strong evidence. If you or your loved one is being ordered to participate in one or you feel a court-martial result should be appealed because improper lineup evidence was admitted, you need experienced counsel. I have the experience you need. Call me today. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.