DENVER (CBS4) – Charles Battle was one week from high school graduation in Colorado when he says his life was turned upside down by one person’s mistaken identification. Now, he’s fighting for a proposed law aimed at making sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to others.
Battle had just stepped off the bus in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood when he says eight police officers — guns drawn — descended on him, handcuffed him, and dragged him between two squad cars. Meanwhile, a woman 50 feet away, in dim light without her glasses, identified him as her attacker.READ MORE: Sen. John Hickenlooper Climbs To New Heights To Address Climate Change
“A couple seconds later he said, ‘We got him,'” Battle explained.
It would take six months before police realized they had the wrong guy and the charges were dismissed.
The method used to identify him is known as a showup. Unlike a lineup, where a witness picks a suspect from a group of people, in a showup, the witness is shown one person — right after the crime — and asked to make an ID on the spot. Critics say it’s the most biased and least reliable method of identification, noting about 70% of people exonerated using DNA were convicted based on an eyewitness.
“I understand that you do need to enforce the law, but this happening in this way just ruins people’s lives,” said Battle.
State Rep. Jennifer Bacon agrees.READ MORE: Bureau Of Land Management Changes Course, Will Create Dual Headquarters In DC And Grand Junction
“When we think about the prison pipeline, there are key points that we can just shut that valve off, and this is one of them,” she said, and she has introduced a bill to do that. It requires standardized training for every officer in the state on best practices for showups. Bacon says many of them are basic.
“Don’t dress up the person in the clothes that a witness said they saw someone in to place the face. Don’t have them repeat phrases. As a matter of justice for all involved, whether it’s the alleged perpetrator or the victim, we have to get it right,” she said.
Battle’s mom, Sharon, says they’re fortunate that they had the support of friends who rallied behind him and raised money. Others, she says, take plea deals for something they didn’t do.
“It was a nightmare. Imagine your child, your son, your daughter spending years in prison, their life being altered by a misidentification,” Sharon said.
Five years ago, the Colorado legislature passed a bill establishing best practices for showups, but only a handful of departments adopted them. Under Bacon’s bill, every department would be required to implement the practices. The bill also requires data collection for when and how showups are being used.
After his horrific ordeal, Battle says, all he wants is for police to be better trained.MORE NEWS: Death Of Olivia Gant Impetus For New Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Bill
“I don’t want this to ruin anyone else’s life,” he said.