20/20 Looks at the Rachel Hoffman Case
ABC's 20/20 looks at the sad case of Rachel Hoffman, the 23-year-old college student murdered after police recruited her to be a drug informant. The show does a good job of not letting the police paint the woman as a hardened pusher (by all accounts, she wasn't). When the police chief says Hoffman was caught with a "quarter pound" of marijuana, the reporter asks him to illustrate about how much that would be. He's forced to reply, "about a baggie." When he says they found a felony amount of "Valium and ecstasy" in her apartment, he's forced to admit the felony supply comprised all of six pills.
Faced with four years in prison for that "stash" under Florida's aggressive drug laws, Hoffman agreed to work as an informant. Police in Tallahassee had Hoffman contact two major drug dealers with whom she had never previously met and arrange for the hippie college chick and small-time pot dealer to purchase cocaine, 1,500 ecstasy pills, and a handgun. The thugs must have smelled the setup from a mile away. It was some astonishingly stupid police work.
It's good that the case is raising questions about the use and abuse of drug informants. It's too bad that it took the death of a pretty white college girl for those questions to be asked.