Someone else's thoughts about eyewitnesses and identification..

by Debbie White

Laura, I have thought many times about the reliability of a 5-year old child with "poor eyesight" in identifying Bix in that garage. Incidentally, although the garage in the photo is (from all that I have researched) where the incident took place, we cannot know how it may have looked nearly 100 years ago. It wouldn't be surprising if there had been a different door at that time than what is seen in the photo. According to Sally's daughter who posted in the Bix forum in August of 2009, she had "little sight, and that only at close range."

But what I mainly wanted to address is the possible mis-identification of Bix by the two eyewitnesses, Bailey and Duncan, that Bob and Nick have researched so thoroughly. In January of 2001 a contributor to the Forum by the name of Paul Whitehorn wrote about this and what he said made a lot of sense to me. Here is the pertinent excerpt from that post, although not the entirety of it, keeping in mind that in 2001 MUCH less information was known about these young men -

"We are not given any detail of the two eyewitnesses who saw the child taken to the garage by a person Ivens says they identified as 'the defendant.' The two witnesses must have known Bix by sight if not by name and hence could identify him and/or his residence. Unless Bix happened to be standing nearby when the two were questioned it seems impossible for them to have identified him otherwise. It is routine in these circumstances for the suspect to be brought into the presence of eyewitnesses who are asked whether this is the person they referred to: this may involve the use of an identity parade depending on local law and circumstances. As Bix was arrested and charged it seems that an affirmative identification was forthcoming and it is difficult to believe that local officers, who had every interest in avoiding mistakes in procedure, did not take great care in their investigation. Quite apart from any social pressure on them, because identification evidence is one of the most contentious aspects of criminal prosecutions, they would have been anxious to avoid procedural or legal errors in the arrest which could be exploited later by defence counsel to secure acquittal....If these witnesses had testified in court it would not have been 'hearsay' evidence as that is word of mouth evidence from a third party who is not present in court and cannot therefore be cross examined: the word of an absent party who cannot be examined by the court is disallowed. These witnesses stated that they saw Bix take a child into a garage and the status of their evidence is best judged from its consequences: it enabled an individual to be identified, arrested, and charged. It stretches credibility to breaking point to imagine that Davenport police officers would arrest the son of a prominent local businessman on such a charge without going through some checking procedure. The very fact that the Chief of Police and the 'County Attorney' personally interviewed Ivens and his daughter confirms this judgement: their involvement precludes the likelihood of any obvious errors in the identification or arrest procedure. It also indicates that there was sufficient evidence to forward the case to the Grand Jury and to warrant the posting of a bond of $1500 - about twice the annual salary of a blue collar worker in those days but no doubt this estimation can be refined if necessary: in any event a significant sum."

Posted on Dec 4, 2017, 1:19 PM

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