Recent Blog Posts

Thursday, January 28, 2016

FBI pressures Muslim immigrants to become informants

This Buzzfeed article-- Welcome to America--Now Spy on Your Friends -- describes how the FBI routinely interferes with the immigration process in order to exert pressure on immigrants from Muslim countries to provide information.  As the article puts it, "[w]hen Muslim immigrants apply to become citizens, they often find the process delayed for years without explanation. Then, when they are at wit’s end, they get a visit from the FBI, with an offer they don’t dare refuse."

See also this 2013 ACLU report, Muslims Need Not Apply.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reliability hearings in Washington state

The Washington State House and Senate are considering bills that would institute pretrial reliability hearings in which judges would evaluate informant witnesses for unreliability before those informants could testify in front of juries. The House version would mandate the hearings; the Senate version gives judges discretion over whether to hold them or not.  News coverage from the Associated Press here.

Reliability hearings are one of many important tools available to combat unreliable informants and avoid wrongful conviction, including corroboration requirements, stronger and earlier discovery requirements, jury instructions, and limits on when and how informants can be used.  The Washington legislation thus represents an important first step.  It is motivated in part by the wrongful convictions of three young Washington residents several years ago who were convicted based on the testimony of a highly unreliable compensated informant.