Wrongful Convictions Blog

Policing Snitching to Protect Defendant’s Rights

The above is the title of a concisely written article by Emily Smith. It appeared in the American Criminal Law Review, 2011. The article reviews the pros and cons of informant testimony; the idea that snitching evidence is essentially quid pro quo in nature. That, for the most part, they are to be viewed with circumspect, otherwise,  measures are required to be put in place to retain their probative value.

The author provides anecdotal evidence to support the claim that, 49% of those wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, faced this fate because of crooked testimony. The author then followed with a rhetorical question: Is reliance on this essential practice, really necessary to the effective enforcement of the criminal law?

‘No one can deny that the information the informants can provide is relevant to a trial. However, prosecutors are given almost unfettered discretion to offer the informant incentives, with courts rarely questioning the credibility of their witnesses. The problem is that the informant’s greed creates trouble when it is combined with the prosecutor’s leeway and singular focus on conviction’. In light of this ‘tunnel vision’ by prosecutors, the author suggests that, there should be some additional sort of judicial oversight.  She says, there are three ways to conduct such supervision. Read those ways and the entire article.