Thursday, December 29, 2011

Florida looks to review jailhouse informant testimony

Florida is exploring options that would prevent a suspect from going to prison based solely on the testimony of jailhouse informants, unless that testimony was found reliable by a judge prior to trial, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida's Innocence Commission, the blue-ribbon panel working to prevent future false convictions could recommend that Florida become the only state in the nation that would require judges to review the reliability of jailhouse informants — as well as any witness with pending criminal charges — before allowing them to testify at a felony trial.

The state currently requires a pretrial reliability test for scientific evidence, Attorney Henry "Hank" Coxe III, a panel member and former president of the Florida Bar told the Sentinel. If it requires a test for that, it should also for "something this critically important."

According to the Innocence Project, a New York nonprofit that works to free the innocent, 15 percent of all wrongful convictions later cleared by DNA testing featured false testimony by jailhouse informants. In murder cases, it's 50 percent.

A study by two University of California-San Francisco psychologists found that inmates tend to be very good liars. The study found that deceptive inmates were often successful at fooling people. The group they were least able to fool was U.S. Secret Service, who correctly identified deception 64 percent of the time.

Only one state — Illinois — requires a judge to review before trial whether a jailhouse informant's testimony is reliable and only for death-penalty cases, according to the Sentinel.

To read more:,0,6086874.story

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