Jailhouse Testimony Under Increased Scrutiny – MDCLC

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

Authorities in Missouri and throughout the country sometimes use information from jailhouse informants as evidence in criminal proceedings. However, such testimony can be questionable since it is obtained from those looking to reduce their time behind bars. In many cases, evidence has been uncovered that has exonerated defendants who were convicted based on lies told by these informants. Therefore, new rules have been created in many parts of the country to ensure that the veracity of information that they provide.

In Connecticut, a new law will keep track of any benefits that they were given in exchange for talking with prosecutors. According to a member of the Innocence Project, jailhouse informants are among the most common causes of wrongful convictions. In states such as Connecticut and Illinois, pretrial hearings are held to determine if their words should be admitted into evidence that is heard by a jury.

Prosecutors say that it should be up to a jury to determine if a jailhouse witness is credible. They also say that many individuals have been held accountable for their actions because people already in custody spoke to them. However, a man in Illinois claims that he spent 25 years in prison after a prisoner falsely said that he was the one who committed it. The prisoner would later recant his story.

A criminal defense attorney may take several steps to help a person charged with a crime. One of these steps may be to cast doubt on witness testimony. In some cases, it may be possible to have statements made by jailhouse witnesses thrown out. This may weaken a prosecutor’s case or otherwise make it easier to create reasonable doubt.

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