Resources

  • SNITCHING: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice
  • U.S. Attorney General's Guidelines on the FBI's Use of Confidential Human Sources
  • Sarah Stillman, The Throwaways, The New Yorker (2012) (article on the use of juvenile informants)

Recent Blog Posts

Monday, December 10, 2018

Professor Robert Bloom on jailhouse informant expert testimony

Professor Robert Bloom is an expert on informants who has testified in numerous cases.  He has now authored this article,What Jurors Should Know about Informants: The Need for Expert Testimony, Mich. St. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2019).  Here is the abstract:  

  With the advent of DNA exonerations, the data would indicate that many individuals have been wrongly convicted. In looking at the causes of the exonerations, nearly 20% have involved testimony by accomplices and jailhouse informants. The questionable credibility of these individuals has long been recognized by courts and legislatures. Reforms in this area include, enhanced jury instructions, pre-trial credibility hearings, and corroboration before the testimony can be introduced.  

  This article argues the efficacy of expert testimony to further assist jurors in measuring the credibility of these witnesses. Although the use of experts has largely been disfavored by courts, there has been a gradual movement to use experts for eyewitness identifications, the major cause of exonerations. The article proposes a similar movement for informant testimony.

Professor Bloom is also the author of the book Ratting: The Use and Abuse of Informants in the American Justice System (2002).

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Illinois enacts nation's strongest law on jailhouse informant testimony

Last week, the Illinois legislature overrode the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1830, which will enact the strongest law in the nation to prevent wrongful convictions based on false jailhouse informant testimony. The Illinois Innocence Project and the national Innocence Project supported the law, which was authored by Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) and Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago). Under Senate Bill 1830, Illinois will be the first state in the country to require judges to hold pre-trial reliability hearings before jailhouse informant witness testimony is admissible in murder, sexual assault and arson cases. In addition, the law requires prosecutors to disclose key evidence regarding jailhouse informant witnesses to the defense, including benefits provided in exchange for testimony, their complete criminal history, and their previous jailhouse informant activities. Illinois enacted these protections for capital cases in 2003; however, the law became moot when the death penalty was abolished in 2011.

Read more about the new law here.

posted by Michelle Feldman