Police claim that a man from O'Fallon, Missouri, committed a number of crimes directed at minors earlier this summer.
According to the allegations, the 41-year-old man made inappropriate contact with two girls at a shopping center and later engaged in the sexual abuse of another girl. The man has been charged with two counts of statutory rape, as well as two counts of child molestation, in connection with the more recent alleged acts. Police are also pursuing charges for the earlier incidents.
In order to link the man to the sexual assault in July, the police used a potentially controversial tactic. According to the police's own statement, the girl identified the man as the assailant in a photo lineup conducted by investigators.
The photo lineup method is controversial because of the shockingly high number of false-positives that the technique can yield. Studies have been conducted to determine the validity of photo lineup identifications across numerous police departments. In the course of these studies, researchers have been curious to determine exactly how individuals arrive at their conclusions when identifying a potential subject in a photo lineup, so they have used a variety of methods to approach the process. Researchers discovered that eyewitnesses chose the wrong individual up to nearly 20 percent of the time in photo lineups.
No matter how a person is identified as a suspect in a crime, it is absolutely crucial to be mindful of how investigators arrived at their conclusions. If police used a technique such as photo identification, the accuracy of the results could be challenged. A prosecution case built on such evidence is far from being open and shut.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "O'Fallon, Mo., man faces sex charges for alleged assault on girl, 11," Susan Weich, Aug. 11, 2012