Saturday, April 16, 2005

Disclosing snitch rewards only fair

As a former federal drug task force commander, South Texas Democrat Rep. Juan Escobar knows more than most folks about confidential informants, aka, "snitches." That means he also knows they can be abused.

His HB 3151 will be heard Tuesday in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee requiring prosecutors to disclose to defense attorneys any communications "regarding benefits or detriments that may be conferred on the witness as a result of the witness's participation or lack of participation in the case must be documented in writing and disclosed to the defense at least 30 days before the date the trial commences."

Basically that means prosecutors must disclose what their snitches are getting in exchange for their testimony. And why not?

Bad snitches (and their police handlers) are responsible for some of the worst abuses in Texas' drug war, indeed, of the entire justice system. In Dallas, Hearne, and Palestine, informants were used as instruments of racial profiling. In the Dallas fake drugs scandal, the main snitch was earning upwards of $200,000 per year -- more than the police chief -- in confidential informant fees. Others receive reduced prison time for snitching. Such arrangements clearly should be revealed to defense counsel before trial.

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