Advanced Criminal Law: Convicting the Innocent
Professor James R. Elkins College of Law
West Virginia University|Fall|2016|



Jailhouse Snitches|Informants

"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


Jailhouse Snitch Testimony: A Policy Review, The Justice Project, Washington, D.C. 2007 [online text]

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

Russell D. Covey, Abolishing Jailhouse Snitch Testimony, 49 Wake Forest L. Rev. 101 (2014) [online text]

Videos: In-Class Viewing

Getting It Right: Informants
[2:33 mins.] [Innocence Project ]

Alexandra Natapoff, "Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice"
[10:01 mins.]

Prof. Paul C. Giannelli on Jailhouse Snitches
[approx. 30 mins.; Giannelli lecture begins at 6:18 mins. and ends at 36:38 mins.]

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]


Professor Alexandra Natapoff on Snitching
[2:54 mins.]

Alexandra Natapoff on Why Snitching is Harmful
[5:02 mins.]

WLKY Investigates: Jailhouse Informants
[4:43 mins.] Pt2 [4:57 mins.]

The Corruption of Innocence: A Journey for Justice
[3:26 mins.][See, Lori St. John, The Corruption of Innocence: A Journey for Justice (Creative Production Service, 2013)] [commentary on the Joseph O'Dell case]

Confidential Informants: Knowing Your Rights
[10:20 mins.] [College students used as informants]

Former DA: How to fight a police informant case
[2:56 mins.]

Prosecutor Mike Allen on Confidential Informants
[2:13 mins.]

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

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

The Investigators: Confidential Informants in Limbo
[3:29 mins.] [Center for Investigative Reporting]

Recruited by Police & Thrown Into Danger, Young Informants Are Drug War's Latest Victims [15:22 mins.] [Democracy Now] Pt2 [9:27 mins.]

Use of Informants in the War on Drugs
[1:31:21 mins.] [PBS Frontline]

Tony Sera--A Lawyer Known for Attacking Snitch Testimony

To Snitch Or Not To Snitch
[2:18 mins.] Pt2 [14:28 mins.]

[Tony Serra] [Tony Serra in court] [Tony Serra on closing argument] [Tony Serra interview]

Case Study (Juan Melendez)

Juan Melendez: Snitch Testimony
[6:00 mins.][narrated by Damon Echols]

Case Study (Ken Wyniemko)

Ken Wyniemko Interview
[3:24 mins.] [Innocence Project] [Ken Wyniemko served eight years in Michigan prisons for a crime he didn't commit before DNA exonerated him.] [Contributing causesfor wrongful conviction: eyewitness testimony and jail house snitch]

Case Study (Steven Barnes)

Steven Barnes: Case Study

Additional Cases--John Nolley

John Nolley Freed After 19 Years In Prison
[2:10 mins.] [Barry Scheck comments favorably about the cooperation of the DA in this case who had established a Conviction Integrity Unit] [jailhouse snitch]

Additional Cases--Alfred Trenkler

The Alleged Wrongful Conviction of Alfred Trenkler

Additional Cases--Whitey Bulger

Use of Informants by Law Enforcement
[2:32:12 mins.] [Whitey Bulger case; testimony by William Bulger] Pt2 [2:11:03 mins.]


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]


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

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

Report of the Kaufman Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin

Thomas Sophonow Inquiry Report

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, Snitching: The Institutional and Communal Consequences, 73 U. Cin. L. Rev. 645 (2004) [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)


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]

Web Resources

[PBS Frontline]