Friday, August 19, 2005

U.S. v. Beck (9th Cir. - Aug. 10, 2005)

Sure this is the guy? There are surveillance photographs and three eyewitnesses -- all of whom appear to have had a pretty good look -- to a bank robbery. The first eyewitness describes the perpetrator as white and in his mid-thirties. The second describes him as white or Native American and 25-30. The third describes him as Hispanic or Filipino and in his mid-twenties. Makes you pretty confident in eyewitness identifications, no?

Seems like the only evidence they have against Beck is that he looks like the suspect. At the pretrial photo array (which is arguably suggestive, but Judge Gould holds it's not), two of the eyewitnesses pick out No. 5 -- which is Beck -- as the one. But the third says that No. 2 -- someone else -- is the one. Makes you even more confident, huh?

The first jury deadlocks. Can't find enough certainty, or at least can't find it unanimously. At the second trial, the district court allows Beck's probation officer -- who's met Beck all of four times -- to testify that he's looked at the surveillance photo and thinks that Beck's the one. And the jury convicts. And the panel (Judges Gould, Wallace, and Berzon) say that's fine. So Beck gets 8+ years.

Sure that's the guy?