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Neil v. Biggers


The defendant was convicted of rape. Some of the evidence consisted of testimony concerning the victim’s visual and voice identification at a stationhouse show-up that occurred seven months after the crime. The victim had been in the presence of the assailant for a significant amount of time and had several opportunities to directly observe him both indoors and outdoors. She testified that she had “no doubt” that the defendant was her assailant. She had previously given the government a description of her assailant that was confirmed by an officer. The victim had not identified any of the others who were presented at previous show-ups, lineups, or through photographs. Officers asserted that they used the show-up technique because they had difficulty in finding other individuals generally fitting the defendant’s description as given by the victim for a lineup.


Whether the show-up was so impermissibly suggestive of the defendant’s identification as the perpetrator, to deprive him of his right to due process?


No. While the station-house identification may have been suggestive, under the “totality of the circumstances,” the victim’s identification of the defendant was reliable.


The Supreme Court held that the identification of the defendant was reliable. Eyewitness identification at trial following a pretrial identification will be set aside only if the pretrial identification procedure was so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. The factors to be considered in evaluating the likelihood of misidentification include:

1) The opportunity of the witness to view the criminal at the time of the crime,

2) The witness’s degree of attention,

3) The accuracy of the witness’s prior description of the criminal,

4) The level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the confrontation,

5) The length of time between the crime and the confrontation.

Based on these factors, the witness’s identification of the defendant was reliable.


409 U.S. 188, 93 S. Ct. 375 (1972)

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