When Can You Trust a Jailhouse Informant?

And when can a court trust one?


A Texas bill would eliminate certain sorts of jailhouse-snitch testimony in death penalty cases. Radley Balko reacts:

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Universal Pictures

The very idea that people regularly confess to crimes that could put them in prison for decades or possibly even get them executed to someone they just met in a jail cell and have known for all of a few hours is and has always been preposterous. Not to mention the fact that these are people whose word prosecutors wouldn't trust under just about any other circumstance. When informants have later recanted testimony or claimed that police or prosecutors browbeat them into lying, a DA's office will quickly point to the informants' criminal records and lack of trustworthiness. But when they're helping to win a conviction, their word is gold.

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