What Is a Jailhouse Informant?

criminal informant

Jailhouse Informants Are Notorious Liars

Jailhouse informants, also known as “criminal informants,” are people in prison who are incentivized to testify against a defendant in exchange for a benefit, which typically includes leniency in their own case. This leniency is essentially a reduced sentence, or in some cases, money and special privileges. Criminal informants are often

To no surprise, jailhouse informant testimony is one of the leading contributing factors of wrongful convictions, influencing nearly 1-in-5 of the 367 DNA-based exoneration cases, according to the Innocence Project. In other words, of the 365 people exonerated in the US by DNA evidence, nearly 20% were convicted due, in part, to lying informants.

Sadly, unregulated jailhouse informant testimony often lands innocent people in jail.

If you think about it, incarcerated people will generally take any chance to regain their rights and privileges. When given the opportunity to elicit confessions from uncharged suspects, jailhouse informants will get straight to work. But that doesn’t mean they are working honestly or reliably. Ironically, police and government agencies rely on people — who are often criminals themselves — to provide “insider” information about other suspected criminals. The police essentially rely on criminals to help them catch other criminals.

The outcome? A lose-lose situation. Take a look at real-life examples of the harmful and deadly consequences of relying on criminal informants:

Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas were killed by police officers who were executing a warrant to find drugs. Court documents released afterward showed that the no-knock raid was based on just 2 pieces of evidence, one of which included a narcotics officer’s fabricated description of a “controlled buy” in which the confidential informant bought drugs from the Tuttles while he watched. The narcotics officer was lying — the drug buy had never happened, and there is no evidence the confidential informant even existed in the first place.

More than 13 years ago, in Atlanta, Georgia, a police SWAT team carried out a similar no-knock raid on Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old grandmother. Johnston fired one shot at the home invaders, who responded by killing her in a hailstorm of 39 bullets. What triggered the raid? The police got a warrant by asserting that a confidential informant bought drugs from Johnston’s house. The informant never existed.

Marvin Guy and Henry Magee of Texas were both subjected to no-knock raids as a result of confidential informants providing bad information to the police. In both of these cases, informants falsely claimed that Guy and Magee were selling large amounts of drugs, and police conducted no-knock raids in which each resident shot back at the intruders. The raids resulted in the deaths of two officers, and only small amounts of drugs were found.

In May 2003, a dozen NYPD officers conducted a no-knock warrant based on a tip from a confidential informant who told them a convicted felon was dealing drugs and guns from the sixth floor of the apartment. There was no felon, as the only resident in the building was Alberta Spruill, a 57-year-old city employee. The raid team set off a grenade before entering, causing Spruill to fall to the ground. Once the police learned they were mistaken, the officer attempted to help Spruill to her feet. But she went into cardiac arrest and died two hours later. The NYPD investigation later found that the alleged drug dealer was arrested days earlier and the informant had lied. By 2006, New Yorkers filed more than 1,000 complaints about botched raids, a 50% increase over 2002.

The Impacts of Criminal Informants on Your Case

As you can see, jailhouse informants can hurt police operations more than help. Consequently, criminal suspects can suffer as a result. We are well-aware of the dangerous impacts that criminal informants can have on a suspect, which is why our attorney takes extra measures to verify the source of the evidence against you, ensure it is supplemented with corroborating information, and scrutinize every detail to ensure you get a fair chance at freedom.

Wait no longer to get in touch with our firm online or at (707) 418-5352 to discuss your criminal charges today. Your fight is our fight!

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