Beyond Unreliable: How Snitches Contribute to Wrongful Convictions
Golden Gate University Law Review, 2006
25 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2006
There is increasing evidence that our criminal system often convicts the innocent. Criminal informants, or "snitches," play a prominent role in this wrongful conviction phenomenon. The criminal system, however, is heavily dependent on snitches, particularly in connection with the investigation and prosecution of drug offenses, and police and prosecutors are often not well-positioned to know when their informants are lying. This Comment, which was prepared in connection with the ACLU of Northern California's conference on wrongful convictions, describes the institutional relationships between snitches, police, and prosecutors that makes snitch falsehoods so pervasive and difficult to discern with the traditional tools of the adversarial process. It offers a litigation suggestion for providing a judicial check on the use of unreliable informant witnesses, namely, a Daubert-style pre-trial reliability hearing. The Appendix provides a sample motion requesting and justifying such a hearing.
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