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#abq4ward: Accurate witness info benefits criminal investigations

Chris Ramirez
September 15, 2017 05:47 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- With so much focus on crime in Albuquerque, how can victims and passersby better help law enforcement in their investigations?

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Police get all kinds of descriptions from witnesses. Memory can help, but it's far from perfect. Lt. Elizabeth Armijo with New Mexico State Police explains officers need to get to the bottom of the truth, but the trauma of a horrific crime or the adrenaline after may create tunnel vision.

"As police, what we want you to do is pay attention to what's going on around them. For one, that involves paying attention and to be looking around.  Don't be on your cell phone all the time.  Don't be walking around with your head buried into electronics or anything else, pay attention to what is going on around you."

Armijo suggests taking written notes immediately after the incident. Relying on notes later will serve witnesses better than your memory.

Prosecutors also rely heavily on credible witness testimony.  Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said he puts pressure on police to practice ethical interviewing strategies.

"We've got to get the right people. If you are in a situation where somebody is incorrectly identified as a potential suspect, we have an obligation as much as the defense attorney does to figure out ways to minimize that and, when appropriate, to dismiss the case completely," he said. "That's our ultimate goal, to make sure we do the right thing."

Torrez cautions against group interviews. The dominant voice can persuade others to change his account. 

"If you get a group of folks together and they start recalling things, if I mention things you don't recall, it can become part of your memory and your recollection. And we don't want to do that,” he said. “We need an honest and accurate depiction of what happened."

Credits

Chris Ramirez

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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