An often difficult decision faced by prosecutors is whether to use evidence provided by a so-called jailhouse informant. Individuals, when incarcerated, may let their guard down with other inmates and speak freely about the crime with which they have been charged. They may also (perhaps falsely) claim to have committed some heinous act simply in an effort to “impress” fellow inmates. At the same time, inmates facing other charges may try to barter with law enforcement, providing information allegedly learned from a fellow inmate in exchange for some benefit, such as a lesser sentence. The negotiating inmate may have truly learned the information from the fellow inmate or may simply be making up a false statement to curry favor. It is left to the prosecutor to sort through all of these possibilities to get to the truth. PCE offers the following considerations to assist prosecutors in evaluating whether to call as a witness an informant (hereinafter “informant”) who purports to have heard incriminating statements from a fellow inmate (hereinafter “defendant”). It is understood that it may not be possible to follow every consideration listed below.
Prosecutors from 17 States Meet in Boston for Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence National Meeting of Statewide Best Practices Committees
[BOSTON, MA] – On July 19 and 20, 2016, Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence (PCE) led prosecutors from 17 states in a national meeting of statewide Best Practices Committees. These committees are non-partisan bodies of prosecutors that include elected and senior prosecutors from urban, suburban, and rural districts throughout a state. The committees serve as think tanks that examine information on the latest developments in criminal justice and community safety. Their mission is to improve the criminal justice system and to address emerging issues.
The main topics of this meeting were ethics and “how to implement community programs on a shoestring?”
Witness intimidation and witness tampering can occur in any case, from simple misdemeanors to homicides. It has a variety of consequences from the silencing of an entire community, to the murder of a witness, to the recantation of truthful testimony. Though witness intimidation is an insidious problem, there are strategies throughout the investigation and prosecution of a case that can help to keep a witness safe and reduce the impact of intimidation.