Monday, October 4, 2010

Texas requires corroboration for informant witnesses

Perhaps as a result of these sorts of debacles, Infamous fake drug scandal in Dallas, Of Experts and Snitches, Texas has passed some good corroboration legislation restricting the use of drug informants and jailhouse snitches. Last year, it passed this law requiring corroboration for jailhouse snitches:
A defendant may not be convicted of an offense on the testimony of a person to whom the defendant made a statement against the defendant's interest during a time when the person was imprisoned or confined in the same correctional facility as the defendant unless the testimony is corroborated by other evidence tending to connect the defendant with the offense committed. Tex. Code. Crim. Pro. art. 38-075
Article 38-141 similarly requires corroboration before a drug informant can testify. These are steps in the right direction, although they are only partial solutions to the lying snitch problem. The key to informant unreliability is not whether the informant is involved in drugs or in jail, but whether he expects a benefit and therefore has a motivation to lie. Nebraska takes the right approach in this regard by defining "informant" to include "any criminal suspect, whether or not he is detained or incarcerated, who received a deal, promise, inducement or benefit." Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-1929. In defining informant broadly, the Nebraska legislature reasoned that "there is a compelling state interest in providing safeguards against the admission of testimony the reliability of which may be or has been compromised through improper inducements."