Advanced Criminal Law :: West Memphis 3
Professor James R. Elkins College of Law
West Virginia University




Jailhouse Snitch Testimony

" In more than 15% of cases of wrongful conviction overturned by DNA testing, an informant or jailhouse snitch testified against the defendant. Often, statements from people with incentives to testify – particularly incentives that are not disclosed to the jury – are the central evidence in convicting an innocent person." ---Midwest Innocence Project

I. Background Readings

Jailhouse Snitch Testimony: A Policy Review
The Justice Project, Washington, D.C

PBS Frontline Documentary

Secret Justice: Criminal Informants and America’s Underground Legal System
Professor Alexandra Natapoff, Prison Legal News

Jailhouse Snitches; Trading Lies for Freedom
Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1989

Snitch: How Informants Have Become a Key Part of Prosecutorial Strategy in the Way Against Drugs
[PBS Frontline]


II. Video

Snitch Testimony
[4:14 min.] [an excerpt from "Justice Incarcerated"]

[2:33 min.] [Innocence Project]

The Corruption of Innocence, A Journey for Justice
[3:26 min.][See, Lori St. John, The Corruption of Innocence: A Journey for Justice (Creative Production Service, 2013)]

Commonwealth v. Jones, Jailhouse Informants
[12:46 min.][Further proceedings in Commonwealth v. Jones] [7:33 min.]

Casey Anthony: Is Robyn Adams a Jailhouse Snitch
[2:18 min.][Casey Jailhouse 'Snitch' Claims Book Plans][2:13 min.]

Juan Melendez: Snitch Testimony
[6:00 min.] [narrated by Damien Echols]

III. Cases

Larry Peterson

The Alleged Wrongful Conviction of Alfred Trenkler

IV. Pretrial Hearing on Informant Reliability

Beyond Unreliable: How Snitches Contribute to Wrongful Convictions
[Professor Alexandra Natapoff; article includes a "Motion to Exclude Cooperating Witness Testimony and Request for a Reliability Hearing"]

Motion Requesting Snitch Reliability Hearing
[State of Kansas v. Longoria]

Motion for an Informant Reliability Hearing
[U.S. District Ct.]

V. Defense Counsel: Dealing with the Snitch

Here's How: To Handle the Snitch at Trial
Jeffrey W. Jensen, criminal defense lawyer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Preparation for Cross-Examination of the Snitch
Michael G. Howell, Capital Defender, Durham, North Carolina

Defense Responses to Jailhouse Informant Testimony
[The Jury Expert, February, 2014]

VI. Confidential Informants & Jailhouse Informant Testimony Guidelines

Recommendation on Jailhouse Informant Testimony
Section on Criminal Justice, American Bar Association

Guidelines for Florida State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Dealing With Confidential Informants adopted by the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association, State Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, March, 2009

The Attorney General's Guidelines Regarding the Use of Confidential Informants
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Compliance with the Attorney General's Investigative Guidelines (Redacted), Special Report, September 2005, Office of the Inspector General

VII. Law Review Articles

C. Blaine Elliott, Life's Uncertainties: How to Deal with Cooperating Witnesses and Jailhouse Snitches, 16 Cap. Def. J. 1 (2003)

George C. Harris, Testimony for Sale: The Law and Ethics of Snitches and Experts, 28 Pepp. L. Rev. 1 (2000)

Peter A. Joy, Constructing Systemic Safeguards Against Informant Perjury, 7 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 677 (2010) [online text]

__________, Brady and Jailhouse Informants: Responding to Injustice, 57 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 619 (2007)

Alexandra Natapoff, Beyond Unreliable: How Snitches Contribute to Wrongful Convictions, 37 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 107 (2006) [online text]

Snitching: The Institutional and Communal Consequences [online text]

Myrna S. Raeder, See No Evil: Wrongful Convictions and the Prosecutorial Ethics of Offering Testimony by Jailhouse Informants and Dishonest Experts, 76 Fordham L. Rev. 1413 (2007) [online text]

Steven S. Trott, Words of Warning for Prosecutors Using Criminals as Witnesses, 47 Hastings L.J. 1381 (1996)

VIII. Books

Ethan Brown, Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice (Public Affairs, 2007)

Alexandra Natapoff, Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice (NYU Press, 2009) [Andrew E. Taslitz, Prosecuting the Informant Culture, Mich. L. Rev. 109 1077 (2011)][review essay]

IX. Legal Cases

The Updated Rat Manual: Finding Evidence to Search for and Undermine the Snitch

X. Blogs

Snitching Blog
Professor Alexandra Natapoff: "a comprehensive resource on criminal informants: legal developments, legislation, news stories, cultural reactions, commentary and more...."

Beware the Jailhouse Snitch
[Norm Pattis, Blog]

[Snitch Testimony] [Informants-Snitches|Innocence Project]

XI. Reports

The Snitch System
[Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University School of LawSurvey, Winter 2004-2005]

Report of the 1989-90 Los Angeles County Grand Jury
Investigation of the Involvement of Jail House Informants in the Criminal Justice System in Los Angeles County || 153 pgs.

Report of the Kaufman Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin

Thomas Sophonow Inquiry Report

XII. Tony Sera :: Video

[Tony Serra, a radical lawyer :: YouTube video on his career in attacking snitch testimony: Part1 :: Part2] [on Tony Serra] [Tony Serra in court] [Tony Serra on closing argument] [Tony Serra interview]