Catholic University Law Review


Eyewitness identification remains one of the most popular pieces of evidence in criminal trials despite the decades of research supporting this evidence unreliability. In August 2019, the federal case United State v. Allen became nationwide news when it was revealed that police used Photoshop to remove Allen’s facial tattoo before using the altered-photo in a photo array. None of the eyewitnesses described the culprit as having a facial tattoo, though they identified Allen from the array. Allen is not the only case to have police use Photoshop to edit photos used in arrays. This has been a common practice used by many law enforcement departments in an effort to create fairer identification procedures. Despite this intention, the use of Photoshop raises questions about the reliability of the identifications, and whether this practice supports the Supreme Court’s Manson v. Braithwaite standard. This Comment examines how police use digital editing programs to alter photos in arrays, and then discusses the different scenarios when this practice would be appropriate, and how, when inappropriately done, such photos will negatively impact criminal defendant’s due process rights.