California Considering a Ban on Jailhouse Informant Testimony

Jailhouse informant testimony is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. These individuals are often career criminals who testify that the accused admitted to a crime in jail. The informant then gets his/her sentence reduced. Prosecutors and police love these statements because they help lock in convictions when the evidence is week. According to the Los Angeles Times, California Governor Jerry Brown has a bill on his desk which would bar the admission of such testimony. The caveat is that the ban would only apply when there is no other evidence. If there is even one piece of flimsy corroborating evidence, the statement will come in. The bill is a start, but it doesn’t go far enough. Unfortunately, police and prosecutors are even fighting this minor reform claiming that it goes “too far.” For more information about the problems with jailhouse informant testimony, take a look at this 2003 American Bar Association article and this San Jose Mercury News article.