Saturday, December 2, 2006



The use of jailhouse informants, especially in return for deals, special treatment, or the dropping of charges, has proven to be a specious form of evidence, as has testimony that has only appeared after rewards were offered. Often, the testimony of these snitches and informants has been the key in sending an innocent man or woman to prison for a crime he or she did not commit.

The Center on Wrongful Convictions has studied cases where snitch testimony led to wrongful convictions in the United States and issued the report, "The Snitch System: How Incentivized Witnesses Put 38 Innocent Americans on Death Row." The study provides a comprehensive look at the problem of snitch testimony, and describes in detail how the use of snitch testimony contributed to the conviction of specific innocent defendants.

In Canada, after the exoneration of Guy Paul Morin, a commission was established to review the causes of his conviction and propose remedies for similar situations. The Commission's findings can be downloaded at

Please also see

In general, these guidelines would allow the finder of fact to more evenly weigh the probative value of an informant's testimony:

Judges should presume, and instruct the jury, that a jailhouse informant's testimony is unreliable. Moreover, the prosecution should be required to overcome that presumption before the jury even hears said testimony.

Any deal or reward offered or accepted with regard to informants or snitches must be in writing. All verbal communication should be videotaped.

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