Identifying a suspect can be tricky task

The woman who along with her husband were held up at gunpoint last weekend in South Baltimore was positive she had identified the correct suspects. But after one proved, with the help of video surveillance, that he was in a restaurant at the time, prosecutors were forced to drop the charges.

The case has raised questions about the reliability of witnesses and of police, who arrested and charged before checking an alibi and without having found the gun or any of the victims' belongings, including rings worth $22,300.

Nicholes Maultsby and Julien Rosaly spent four days in jail, one lost his job, the police raided their home and they said broke furniture and even the ceiling as they searched for stolen goods, and now their mug shots are all over the city identifying them as the robbers of two former Ravens cheerleaders.

"What do we do now?" Rosaly asked.

The cops defended the arrests -- made quickly during a ramped up initiative to combat street robberies -- and said they had probable cause to make an arrest and take two potentially dangerous men off the streets. The suspects pleaded that the police should've done their job better before slapping on the cuffs.

"Everyone is eying me," Rosaly said on Thursday.

Today's story examines the tricky world of identifying witnesses and a growing body of research, acknowledge in the courts, that questions whether people can accurately pick out suspects in an attack.

Read story of Maultsby and Rosaly.

Read the victim's account of the robbery.

Baltimore police target rise in robberies.

Here are some examples of mistaken identity:

• In August 2007, a police officer arrested a man in the rape of a Roland Park grandmother in her home after noticing the man's similarity to an artist's rendering of the suspect. Police said the 59-year-old victim then picked the arrested man from a photo array. But eight months later, DNA evidence prompted police to drop the case against the man who had been arrested and charge a different man, who was convicted and sentenced to life plus 93 years in prison in 2010.

• In 2002, a man who had served 20 years for raping an English teacher in Baltimore County — she had identified him as her attacker during the court trial — was set free after DNA evidence proved he was not the assailant. The victim had picked the suspect from a photo array, and two other people who lived in the Towson apartment building said they saw him there around the time of the attack. The same DNA evidence implicated another suspect, who is now serving a 20-year sentence.

• In 1993, DNA evidence cleared death row inmate Kirk Bloodsworth, who was twice convicted of raping and killing a 9-year-old Eastern Shore girl after two children said they saw him walking away from the scene. He was the first inmate in the nation to be cleared by forensic evidence after having been found guilty. He had served eight years in prison and has since become an advocate of increased use of testing. Another man was convicted of killing the girl and is serving life in prison.



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