Monday, July 17, 2006

Louisiana case shows why informant testimony should be vetted before trial

It's nice to occasionally hear some good news on the criminal justice front:

Grits' friend Rev. Alan Bean of
Tulia Friends of Justice reports on that group's website about the granting of a new trial by a federal judge in a high profile Louisiana drug case based largely on mendacious informant testimony. The judge declared he simply didn't believe shifting statements from the government's jailhouse snitch: "'I have not seen a person come up here and take the oath . . .' the Judge began, then took another run at it. 'He was the most uncredible witness I have seen in thirty years on the bench. This is an abomination.'" (See the local press coverage.)

An "abomination," and yet, prosecutors had been able to obtain a jury verdict of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Prof. Natapoff suggests, there need to be ways for judges to evaluate informant testimony BEFORE it's heard by a jury. Based on a witness that shaky, this case never should have gotten this far. Great work, Alan, on the coverage.

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