Tuesday, August 2, 2011

California passes jailhouse informant corroboration law

Governor Brown just signed important new legislation requiring corroboration before a jailhouse informant can testify. SF Chronicle story here: Law requires corroboration of cellmate's testimony. California joins Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Idaho, and several other states that require safeguards to counteract the well-documented unreliability of jailhouse snitch testimony. Here is part of the bill:
A jury or judge may not convict a defendant, find a special circumstance true, or use a fact in aggravation based on the uncorroborated testimony of an in-custody informant.
An "in custody informant" is defined as: "a person, other than a codefendant, percipient witness, accomplice, or coconspirator, whose testimony is based on statements allegedly made by the defendant while both the defendant and the informant were held in within a city or county jail, state penal institution, or correctional institution." Full disclosure: I testified in support of this legislation.