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4 Strange Cases of Mistaken Identity in the U.S. and Germany


It's a fact that not all people who get arrested are the real targets of law enforcement authorities. Sometimes due to certain circumstances such as similar looks or wrong timing, they get caught and end up  in jail charged with offenses they actually did not commit.

Cases of mistaken identity continue to be reported around the world. Sometimes the innocent victims not only end up behind bars but worse, they get killed by law enforcers themselves.

Methods for Identifying Suspects

In the U.S., experts have noted a rise in mistaken identity cases as a result of the traditional lineups during which a witness views several potential suspects or their photos at the same time. Fortunately, this changed in the 1980s when a new method called sequential lineups was implemented and resulted in a drop in the false identification rate.

According to wrongful death attorney, Sherwin Arzani, almost a third of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are using this sequential format. “This particular format involves an eyewitness being presented with suspects in a sequential lineup and not simultaneously and we have seen a huge drop in false eyewitness identifications since then.".

From there, a more accurate method was developed through the efforts of psychologists led by John Wixted from the University of California San Diego. Their method that used statistics is called the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis and it measures the accuracy of diagnostic systems. During a ROC analysis, the level of confidence of a witness is measured while he or she is choosing a suspect from a lineup. The scientists believed that confidence is a strong indicator of accuracy and a confident witness is more like to identify the right person.

Strange Cases of Mistaken Identity

Police authorities often get confused when the prime suspects of a case they are dealing with involved identical twins. In Germany, for instance, police investigating a $6.5 million gold and jewelry heist arrested two identical twins named Hassan and Abbas after their DNA matched those on a pair of rubber gloves found at the crime scene. But since both their DNA that showed in the database was 99.99 percent the same, the police could not tell which of the two men was the real suspect. The end result? The twins were released.

There was also another incident in Arizona where the police failed to identify the suspect because they were identical twins (Orlando and Brandon Nembhard). One of them killed somebody outside a nightclub and the other twin was also present at the crime scene. Charges against them were dropped due to the cops' failure to pinpoint the real triggerman.

Meanwhile, one mind-boggling case of DNA matches involved an Alaskan man who was accused of rape. The man's DNA matched evidence taken from the crime scene but it was found out later that the accused man was already in prison at the time the rape occurred. Thanks to some detective work, it was discovered that the man mistakenly identified received a bone marrow transplant from his brother who was the real rapist. This only means that a recipient of a bone marrow transplant can get the DNA of his or her donor and that DNA matches are not always perfect.

If DNA matches can lead to mistaken identity cases, so does switching of hospital records. Take the case of Jeremy Lee Bass who got arrested for not showing up in traffic court in early 2007 as he claimed to not have committed any traffic violation. His brother apparently falsely used his name. Confusion followed when an obituary published the death of Jeremy Lee Bass who supposedly died in a four-wheeler accident. The real accident victim, however, was one Jeremy Charles Bass who was declared dead at the Gritman Medical Center and the confusion was due to the mix up of hospital records. It was found out that Jeremy Lee Bass also stayed in the same hospital while undergoing treatment for meningitis.

Latest Activity: Feb 13, 2017 at 2:10 AM

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