Texas Man Allegedly Raped in Jail After AI Wrongly Identifies Him as Robbery Suspect Despite Having Alibi

surveillance cameras
Surveillance cameras (For representational purposes). Pixabay

A Texas man is suing Macy's and the parent company of Sunglass Hut after the two companies allegedly relied on error-prone facial recognition technology to falsely accuse him of armed robbery.

Harvey Murphy Jr., 61, went to a DMV to renew his license in Gonzales, Texas, but didn't realize he would be leaving in handcuffs. His arrest was in connection to an armed robbery — one that occurred when he was on the other side of the country.

Sunglass Hut Employee Told Police They 'Found Their Guy' Using Facial Recognition

On Jan. 22, 2022, a Sunglass Hut in Houston was robbed by two armed men. The men stole thousands of dollars from the store, according to a lawsuit. During the robbery, the men ordered two employees into a back room and told them to stay there so they could get away, court records say.

As police were investigating, they got a call from a loss prevention employee with EssilorLuxottica, which is Sunglass Hut's parent company.

The employee told police they "could stop their investigation because he found their guy," the lawsuit said. The employee said he worked with Macy's loss prevention using artificial intelligence and facial recognition software to identify the suspect as the 61-year-old man, the lawsuit said.

Murphy Claims He was Arrested Despite Having a Strong Alibi

EssilorLuxottica and Macy's took a video from the robbery and used it to determine the man was one of the robbers, and police put out a warrant for his arrest, court records said. However, the man had an alibi at the time of the robbery. He was 2,000 miles away in California, according to his lawyer.

Still, he was arrested with no idea what was going on. "All he knew was he was being transported to the Harris County Jail because of a felony arrest warrant," court documents said.

Murphy Alleges Being Sexually Assaulted While in Jail

At his arraignment, the man learned he was being charged with robbery. Once he learned the date of the incident, his lawyer and the prosecutor were able to confirm his alibi, the lawsuit said. The judge then agreed to dismiss the charges against him.

However, just hours before he was released from jail, the man says he was brutally assaulted, according to the lawsuit. "He was followed into the bathroom by three violent criminals. He was beaten, forced on the ground, and brutally gang raped. After this violent attack, one of the criminals held a shank against his neck and told him that if he reported the rape to anyone, he would be murdered," the lawsuit said. After the attack, the man crawled into his bunk, faced the wall and prayed he wouldn't be attacked again, the lawsuit said.

The man was left with permanent injuries from the assault, according to court documents.

Facial Recognition Led to Wrongful Arrest, Claims Suit

Facial recognition is an artificial intelligence technology that analyzes human faces and creates a biometric template, according to the lawsuit. Sunglass Hut collects customers' "biometric identifiers" and "biometric information" with face scanning technology at many of its locations, the court documents said.

"EssilorLuxottica not only profits from its facial-recognition software, but it uses facial-recognition software to identify people who allegedly steal from the Sunglass Hut," the lawsuit said. The court documents say the technology being used is not accurate in most cases and is what led to the wrongful arrest of the man, who is now seeking $10 million in damages from a jury trial.

Related topics : Artificial intelligence