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Witness mistakes lead to wrongful convictions

National database lists 900 wrongful convictions

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A new national database lists more than 900 wrongful convictions, and Florida has its share.

Al Crotzer went to prison in 1983 for a rape he didn't commit. At the time of his arrest, he was listed as 5 feet 7 inches tall and 150 pounds.

But the victim first described him as being 6 feet tall and 200 pounds.

"From the beginning, I did not fit the description," said Crotzer. "I was (convicted) just on eye witness identification alone, and that's what really convicted me. There was no physical evidence in the case."

Twenty years later, DNA proved Crotzer was innocent.

"If you wrongly convicted me for 24 years, 6 months, 13 days, and four hours, then that monster that really committed that crime ran around for 24 years, 6 months, 13 days, and 4 hours doing the same thing," he said.

Misidentification by eyewitnesses is one of the leading causes of innocent people going to prison. Detectives sometimes send cues during a line-up or photo array by pointing at one photo more than the others.

The Innocence Project has pushed for legislation to help alleviate the problem. Calling double-bind, it means whoever administers the line-up doesn't know if the suspect is there.

"It removes the ability to influence the person who is making the identification," said Seth Miller, the Florida Executive Director of the Innocence Project.

In Florida, legislation passed the Senate but died in the House.

Police agencies have been given voluntary guidelines, but not all have adopted them.