New Laws Target Testimony Based Upon Jailhouse Conversations

Associated Press reporter Dave Collins notes that there is currently a nationwide movement to put jailhouse informants under more scrutiny before allowing their courtroom testimony. Advances in DNA as trial evidence has exonerated dozens of prison inmates wrongly convicted based on jailhouse conversations.

The new laws require pretrial evidence hearings on whether or not jail house informants testimony should be allowed and forcing prosecutors to disclose any deals with prisoners as well as their history of testifying in other cases.

According to Rebecca Brown, policy director for the New York-based Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly convicted, this issue is gaining momentum around the country. “Jailhouse informant testimony is one of the leading factors in wrongful convictions.”

confidential informant brett zebrowski

Why Are Confidential Informants Such a Big Problem?

Informants are a big problem because the use of informants is big. Law enforcement relies too heavily on the use of jailhouse testimony. The Los Angeles Police Department has also recently changed its policy on confidential informants. Supposedly approval for CI’s will be required from higher up levels of management than is currently required. This may solve the LAPD’s problem with rouge undercover operations. Some undercover investigations are conducted with the intent of merely harassing the suspects with no clear cut legal objectives in mind.

Make Abusers of CI’s Responsible for Their Actions

Abuse of confidential informant based investigations is a violation of civil rights. Perhaps violating peace officers should be held accountable in federal court for police misconduct.

Cameras are the Solution

It makes more sense to put video cameras on every corner rather than putting a jailhouse informant into every trial. Closed circuit video footage is better than any witness testimony. The solution to crime to record everything in high quality video footage. This will take all of the doubt out of who did it.