Many people have asked how seven of the nine witnesses in a Georgia murder case could have ended up recanting their testimony against Troy Davis, who was convicted of murdering a police officer in 1989, and still remains in jail to this day despite the fact that the case against him has deteriorated.

Well, according to The Innocence Project, Georgia police don’t actually have any rules for how to handle eyewitness evidence:

Hundreds of law enforcement agencies in Georgia have no specific guidelines governing the collection of eyewitness evidence, according to a preliminary report from the Georgia Innocence Project.

Eighty-three percent of the 296 police agencies surveyed by the group reported no written rules on the handling of eyewitness identification, the group found.

The Georgia Innocence Project is set to present the findings of their report at a legislative hearing on Monday at the state Capitol. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.

Those who are demanding justice for officer Mark McPhail should shift their anger towards the police who likely mishandled the evidence in the case, hoping for a quick conviction, rather than finding out who was actually responsible. As the report points out, three quarters of the 205 people exonerated through DNA evidence by the Innocence Project were identified by eyewitness testimony.

State lawmakers are considering legislation to tighten eyewitness guidelines on the heels of several high-profile cases in Georgia, and elsewhere across the country, where prisoners have been cleared by DNA evidence. Of the 205 people exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence in the United States, 75 percent involved faulty eyewitness identification. Six of those were in Georgia.

Most recently, questions about eyewitness identification have cast doubt on the conviction of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, who was found guilty of killing a police officer. He is awaiting a hearing before the Georgia Supreme Court. Davis’ lawyers are asking for a new trial because they say several witnesses who initially testified against their client have since recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable. But it becomes even more so when the police are not obligated to handle evidence with care.

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