Sunday, December 11, 2005

Is Grits Pro-Snitch?

A commenter thought my criticisms of the whosarat database amounted to personal support for snitching: "I'm guessing you want this country to become another Nazi Germany? The Nazi's were good at getting their public to rat and snitch out people."

The reason I consider the "stop snitching" meme on t-shirts an ill advised message isn't that I think criminals should tell on others for reduced sentences -- it's that gangbangers and drug dealers are busy equating "snitches" with all witnesses in popular culture, as that particular commenter did when he announced that a "real" snitch was "someone who selflessly observes others wrong doings and reports them to authority for the sake of obeying the law." Well, if you'd call that person a "snitch," then I don't support a message of "stop snitching." I never would tell someone who witnessed a violent crime, for example, not to report it. That's why the guys wearing Stop Snitching t-shirts into court to intimidate witnesses deserve little sympathy, IMO.

But I do think that snitching, as its own, shady, little-discussed, institutionalized system underlying many of law enforcement's most abusive practices, should be dramatically scaled back by orders of magnitude. It's not the Nazis but the
East German Stasi -- Cold War Communists -- that the American snitch system, to me, most closely resembles, particularly in poor minority neighborhoods.

Finally, I've examined enough of these cases to know that snitches can be victims, too. Look at the case of Derrick Megress in Hearne, a mentally ill repeat offender well known to the DA since his youth who was coerced and manipulated into targeting innocent people. Nothing excuses his role, but to focus only on him would have let the DA and the cops off the hook. That's why
ACLU sued in Hearne -- so that wouldn't happen. See the video about Megress and the Hearne case linked here.

Would I think less of a friend who snitched or who informed on our personal dealings? No question I'd be disappointed, probably angry. But if they did so to avoid years of prison time, I'd also blame a legal system designed to coerce my friend to betray me. Intimidating defendants one at a time is a doomed and misguided strategy, IMO. Snitches, as Christ said of the poor, will always be with us. What's needed are solutions that limit abuses and infuse some integrity into the process.

See Grits' prior writing on the subject of confidential informants:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Intimidating defendants one at a time is a doomed and misguided strategy, IMO."

Well Intimidation seems to work well for the cops!

If you remember a while back a judge had to call for a "mistrial" because some of the court spectators wore shirts in the court room, that said "STOP SNITCHING." I guess now that means that the government will make up some law that says, that you may only wear to court what they think is appropriate for a person to wear. BS!

Any ways getting back to the Intimidation, cops are good at doing this to "juries." Have you ever been to a court room when a police officer is on trial? Sometimes it's hard to find a seat let alone standing room, because of all the cops in uniform, badges and guns glaring down at the jury members. It's as if they are there to let the jury know, hey this is one of our guys, you better make the right decision.

As long as cops can wear their uniform in court, there really is no reason a person can't wear a shirt that says, "stop snitching," "this judge is unfair," or whatever else you wanna wear to a "public" court room.

The DA and police officers love to make deals with people to get them to "snitch", but they will not promise you that they can or will protect you down the road if that person you snitched on comes after you! DA's and police officers are protected with immunity and there is no "constitutional" law that says that law enforcement has to protect you! You're on your own buddy!

One suggestion is don't take a court appointed attorney!!! If you do, you're are more than likely screwed!