In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Walter Crayton, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court established a new standard for the admission at trial of an in-court identification of the defendant where the witness had not, prior to trial, been asked to participate in an out of court identification procedure. The new rule imposes the burden on the Commonwealth to request. prior to trial, that the prospective witness be permitted to make an in-court identification if there has not been any previous identification of the defendant.
Once the prosecutor makes this request, the burden remains on the defendant to establish that the proposed in-court identification would be “unnecessarily suggestive” and that there would be no “good reason” for it. Examples of “good reason” for the first identification procedure by a witness against a defendant at trial may include circumstances where the eyewitness was familiar with the defendant before the commission of the crime; or where the eyewitness was the arresting officer. In other words, circumstances where the witness and the defendant were known to one another or where the identity of the defendant is not a live issue at trial – where the witness is not identifying the defendant based solely on his memory of witnesses the defendant at the time of the incident and therefore, little risk of misidentification from the in-court show-up. Continue reading →