New Jersey

Court Tosses Out Conviction Due to Lack of Face Tattoos in Lineup

A suspected robber's ink caused an appeals court to overturn his conviction.


|||Andrey Popov/
Andrey Popov/

A New Jersey man with face tattoos has had his conviction overturned after Trenton police detectives were accused of using "suggestive" pictures in a photo array.

According to The Trentonian, Donnell Perry was arrested in connection with the armed robbery of a grocery store in 2015. Prosecutors won their case after the owner identified Perry's picture in a photo array. While Perry maintained that he "didn't even do anything" at a hearing, he later pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to seven years in prison by the Mercer County Superior Court.

On Monday, a state appeals court overturned Perry's conviction. According to the ruling, lawyers argued that the witness identification of Perry was inadmissible because his was the only mugshot that included face tattoos.

"The identification procedure was impermissibly suggestive because the witness was shown two arrays in which [Perry] was the only person with visible face markings or tattoo," Perry's lawyers argued. The court determined that Perry successfully proved "a substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification."

The case will return to the Mercer County Superior Court.

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  1. Remind me again why we even do live human lineups anymore?

    1. It was a photo array.

      1. *Sigh*

        There have to be a thousand facial recognition software companies out there that can generate several dozen human faces meeting any arbitrary requirements at the snap of a finger. We don’t need actual people to have actual facial tattoos (or not however the case may be).

        Cops pull up a digital avatar along with several dozen others and ask the witness to look through it. They find and arrest the guy who looks most like the avatar the witness picks out and/or hand the witness, the suspect, and the avatar over to the DA. The DA calls the witness and holds up a picture of the person’s “avatar”, the witness says “Yeah, that’s the guy who did it.”, the DA shows the picture to the jury, they look at the picture and the defendant and they find them guilty (or not). No issue of not enough people with facial tattoos or people of the wrong skin color or whatever. We have the internet now and crime drama and crime-based reality-TV have been doing this and similar for well over two decades.

        1. Hell, I can still see sketches of “Ted Kaczynski” when I close my eyes. If we’re going to find someone guilty based on a farce, let’s at least be little more contemporaneous and efficient about it.

          1. Grr… I mean The Unabomber.

        2. I think you’ve been watching too many TV shows. “Avatars” aren’t automatically generated. You have to have an artist manually generate the likeness of someone. It would take a very long time and be very difficult.

          If you have a person so unique that you cannot do a lineup with a available mugshot photos, then you don’t need a lineup in the first place.

          For example, if the perp has a tattoo that says “Loser” on his forehead, you don’t need much more of a description to find the guy. However, the description is “some line tattoo”, then with a bit of work on a database, you can definitely find a dozen bikers with “some line tattoo” to compare it with. Remember, they have access to every mugshot ever taken.

          1. One thing a computer could do quite easily is to superimpose tattoos on images.

    2. Remind me again why we rely on eyewitness testimony at all anymore? It’s been scientifically proven to be unreliable.

      1. Not when it’s someone as smart as ME remembering it.

    3. Face Tats.

      The new Get Out of Jail Card.

  2. Guess there’s an advantage to having facial tattoos other than never having to get an office job.

  3. So get yerself a crazy one-of-a-kind face tat and protest the lineup for not having anything similar to yours.

    (I do agree the mugshot photos were unfair, but sooner or later there will be someone arguing his distinctive tats were not fairly matched.)

    1. So get yerself a crazy one-of-a-kind face tat and protest the lineup for not having anything similar to yours.

      Best of all worlds: get a fingerstache tattoo and identify as being mustachioed when convenient.

    2. Well, if it was one-of-a-kind, you wouldn’t need a lineup. However, a few lines near one eye is distinctive enough to get mentioned, but not distinctive enough to be positive ID in and of itself. The point of these things is that all of the subjects should at least vaguely fit the description of the perpetrator. To give an example. If you say you were robbed by a big man, and the lineup consisted of Joe the football player and five petite women, you would pick Joe every time. The only reason you would not is if you were absolutely sure that Joe was not the right match. However, studies have shown that witnesses are very reluctant to give the “none of the above” answer.

  4. How many idiots in this country actually have face tattoos?

    1. Tooooo many. Welcome to the wonderful world of ‘subsidizing other’s poor lifestyle choices’ because very few of the people who get face-tats are ever self-supporting.

      1. This is how I feel about people who have kids.

        1. Yeah, I imagine that’s why you’re a big believer in the wall Trump keeps talking about. Right?

    2. I live in a rural area where there aren’t many people to begin with, and I’be seen several such idiots. So it can’t be that uncommon.

    3. Plenty. And I’m happy they do. It’s like wearing a T-shirt with “I make poor decisions” printed on it.

    4. What do you have against the Maori? Or are you just against cultural appropriation?

  5. …a photo array is supposed to contain a number of similar-looking mugshots.

    In New Jerksey that means a parade of a-holes. How will the witness tell the photos apart from a mirror or the Garden State detectives handling the case?

    1. How will the witness tell the photos apart from a mirror or the Garden State detectives handling the case?

      It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone Black Mirror where everybody’s faces are replaced by assholes.

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