Photo recognition errors led to over a year in jail in Rio

Photo recognition errors
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A new study by the Rio de Janeiro Public Defender’s Office shows that 80 percent of defendants wrongly identified as criminals by witnesses and victims remained incarcerated for an average of 14 months until their cases were dismissed. For some defendants, that waiting period reached over six years.

The report analyzed 242 cases in Rio de Janeiro trial courts containing the term “photographic recognition” from January to June last year. Among the 342 defendants, 96 percent were men and 64 percent were black. Almost 90 percent of the incidents were theft cases.

The method of photographic identification has been questioned by several human rights institutions and the Superior Court of Justice has limited its use as evidence. Per Lucia Helena Oliveira, Rio’s Public Defender’s Office criminal defense coordinator, among the main problems facing photo recognition is that victims are often shown a single image, sometimes in low resolution or on smartphone screens. 

“Actually, these ways of using images cannot be identified as legal methods for carrying out recognition. We need, for example, more transparent rules about the images to be shown, as a minimum guarantee of rights,” she explained.