Washington v. Derri (Majority)Annotate this Case
In March 2017, three North Seattle banks were robbed. Police administered a variety of photomontages to witnesses. Some aspects of the photomontage process complied with best practices generally recognized by new scientific research; some aspects of that process did not; and some aspects of that process fell into a gray area on which the scientific literature was in dispute. Defendant John Stites, a/k/a Christopher Lee Derri, moved to suppress the identifications resulting from those photomontages on federal constitutional grounds; the trial court denied his motion, and he was convicted of all three robberies. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review asked whether trial courts had to consider new scientific research, developed after the 1977 Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98, decision, when applying that federal due process clause test. To this, the Supreme Court answered yes: courts must consider new, relevant, widely accepted scientific research when determining the suggestiveness and reliability of eyewitness identifications under Brathwaite. Considering this research, the Supreme Court concluded all three of the challenged identification procedures were suggestive. Under the totality of circumstances, however, the identifications were nonetheless reliable. Defendant’s convictions were affirmed.