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In Commonwealth v. Crayton, 470 Mass. 228, the Supreme Judicial Court announced today that the court is establishing “a new standard for the admission of in-court identifications where the eyewitness had not previously participated in an out-of-court identification procedure.”

The Standard

“Where an eyewitness has not participated before trial in an identification procedure, we shall treat the in-court identification as an in-court showup, and shall admit it in evidence only where there is “good reason” for its admission. The new rule we declare today shall apply prospectively to trials that commence after issuance of this opinion, and shall apply only to in-court identifications of the defendant by eyewitnesses who were present during the commission of the crime.”

Good reason

“For instance, there may be “good reason” for the first identification procedure to be an in-court showup where the eyewitness was familiar with the defendant before the commission of the crime, such as where a victim testifies to a crime of domestic violence….”Good reason” might also exist where the witness is an arresting officer who was also an eyewitness to the commission of the crime, and the identification merely confirms that the defendant is the person who was arrested for the charged crime.In both of these circumstances, the in-court showup is understood by the jury as confirmation that the defendant sitting in the courtroom is the person whose conduct is at issue rather than as identification evidence. “

Burden of proof

“…we place the burden on the prosecutor to move in limine to admit the in-court identification of the defendant by a witness where there has been no out-of-court identification. Once the motion is filed, the defendant would continue to bear the burden of showing that the in-court identification would be unnecessarily suggestive and that there is not “good reason” for it.”
Basis and application of decision
“We base our decision today on “[c]ommon law principles of fairness.”… We do not address whether State constitutional principles would also require “good reason” before in-court identifications are admitted in evidence. Nor do we address the admissibility of in-court identifications in civil cases.”
In addition, the opinion also addressed the standard for admitting evidence of prior bad acts:
“We … clarify that “other bad acts” evidence is inadmissible where its probative value is outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice to the defendant, even if not substantially outweighed by that risk.”


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