In January, Charleston police charged Roland William Willis with three counts of malicious wounding after several people picked him out of a photo lineup, believing him to be the man involved in a stabbing at the Impulse nightclub downtown.
Police dropped the charges after they realized they had the wrong man.
"That's what this is about," said Valeena Beety, the head of the Innocence Project clinic at West Virginia University. "All of us want to get the same person. The real perpetrator is on the streets. None of us want that."
Other suggestions in the bill for lineup procedures include:
• For photo arrays, officers should place photos of suspects in their own folders and then shuffle them so that the administrator of the lineup cannot tell which photo is being presented to the witness until after the procedure is completed.
• Show live or photo lineup persons one-by-one instead of all at once.
Laird said he does not believe West Virginia law enforcement agencies have a perceived problem in wrongful convictions caused by faulty lineups, and hopes that the new legislation will serve as a precautionary measure for investigations.
"I think I have always recognized and understood the weight and value of that evidence in the courtroom, and I've understood the value of doing it right," he said. "It's not an area that has been abused in West Virginia, but it's something that is extremely important.
Laird said that the bill has passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and may be placed on the senate floor for a first reading as early as this week.
Reach Zac Taylor at 304-348-5189 or at zachary.tay...@wvgazette.com