Equivocal Identification of the Defendant
Definition of “equivocal”
• Black’s Law Dictionary defines “equivocal” as “[o]f doubtful character; questionable.”
Black’s Law Dictionary ? (10th ed. 2014)
• [I]dentification testimony need not necessarily be unequivocal to sustain a conviction.
See Mayes v. State, 467 N.E.2d 1189, 1193 (Ind. 1984)(citing Johnson v. State, 432 N.E.2d 1358, 1361 (Ind. 1982))(“[I]dentification testimony need not necessarily be unequivocal in order to sustain a conviction.”)
See also Griffin v. State, 501 N.E.2d 1077, 1078 (Ind. 1986)(citing Mayes v. State, 467 N.E.2d 1189, 1193 (Ind. 1984))(“Identification evidence need not be unequivocal to be sufficient to support a conviction.”)
Cf. Poe v. State, 445 N.E.2d 94, 98 (Ind. 1983)(citing Medsker v. State, 70 N.E.2d 182, 183 (Ind. 1946))(“A witness may testify upon the issue of the identification of the accused in the form of an opinion or belief, and such testimony, standing alone, is sufficient to support a finding upon the issue of identification.”)
Exception to the general rule
• The State presented no other direct or circumstantial evidence connecting the defendant with the crime. The State's entire case was dependent upon the credibility of [a witness’s] identification of the defendant. Under such circumstances, that testimony must be unequivocal.
• In Richardson this Court clearly limited its holding to circumstances where the State's case was entirely dependent on a single witness' [sic] identification of the defendant.
Reconciling the general rule and its exception
• [I]dentification evidence need not be unequivocal to be sufficient to support a conviction only when the identification is supported by circumstantial evidence; when such identification is the only evidence, the identification must be unequivocal.
• For more information on circumstantial evidence, please review Circumstantial Evidence.
• [E]quivocal testimony [on the issue of identification] can certainly contribute to a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Discrepancies between a witness’s testimony and the current appearance of the defendant
• The unequivocal identification of the defendant by a witness in court, despite discrepancies between his description of the perpetrator and the appearance of the defendant, is sufficient to support a conviction.