Nine days after the crime, a detective in the Tucson Police Department assembled a collection of photographs, six in all, of black men—each of them had an eye randomly blotted out. When detectives make a photo lineup—instead of having the eyewitness look through books of mugshots—it means they already have a suspect in mind, what the police call a “prime.” In this case, the prime was Larry Youngblood. He’d been convicted of a robbery 10 years earlier and had some subsequent minor brushes with the police—and he was a black man living in Tucson with one bad eye. As the detective put it in law-enforcement speak, “Officers had suspicions that the subject in this case may have been Mr. Youngblood.”
David was in his fifth grade classroom at the Irene Erickson Elementary School when Detective Joyce Lingel came to see him with the photo spread. David held the lineup very close to his face, prompting Detective Lingel to ask if he was having trouble seeing. He said that he had left his glasses in the classroom, and she sent him back to get them. When he returned, he again looked carefully at the photos and announced with certainty that Number Three was the guy. Larry Youngblood.
That was all they needed. Youngblood was arrested a month later, and not long after that he made arrangements to use his home as equity for bail. But he was still in custody five days before Christmas, when his preliminary hearing was scheduled. David came to court that morning with a member of the Victim Witness Program, and Detective Lingel joined him on a bench outside the courtroom while they waited for the case to begin. Larry Youngblood emerged from an elevator, escorted by a deputy sheriff, wearing prison issue and with his hands cuffed behind him. It was then that David looked him over, turned to the detective, and asked, “Is that him?”