bill would restrict informant testimony in death cases


English: From jack47 on reddit.
English: From jack47 on reddit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Texas Tribune

<:time datetime=”2012-11-29T01:39:20.947272″>Thursday, November 29, 2012


Bill Would Restrict Informant Testimony in Death Cases

  • by Brandi Grissom
  • <:time datetime=”2012-11-28T06:00:00″>November 28, 2012

Enlargephoto by: Neil Conway

Anthony Graves was wrongly convicted and sent to death row in 1994 based largely on the testimony of an alleged accomplice in the fiery murders of six people. The accomplice, while on the execution gurney, admitted he was the lone killer. Ten years later, in 2010, Graves was exonerated. 

Like Graves, Muneer Deeb, Michael Toney and Robert Springsteen were sentenced to death after trials that involved the testimony of their cellmates or alleged accomplices. Their convictions were all overturned. 

State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, has filed a bill, HB 189, that aims to prevent wrongful death sentences in cases that involve unreliable testimony from alleged accomplices or jailhouse snitches who receive a reward for implicating someone else. 

“What we have found is that there have been people who, for their own self-interest, have basically fabricated testimony about other folks, and as a consequence that person has been found guilty,” Dutton said. 

Criminal justice reform advocates said the measure is a critical next step in Texas’ efforts to prevent wrongful convictions. Critics of the measure, though, argue that current rules already protect defendants against unreliable testimony and that eliminating such accomplice or informant testimony could tie prosecutors’ hands.



Under HB 189, prosecutors in death penalty cases would be unable to use testimony from informants or from alleged accomplices of the defendant if the evidence were obtained in exchange for immunity, leniency or any other special treatment. The measure would also make testimony from cellmates of the defendant inadmissible unless the conversation was recorded. 

“Odd as it may sound, Texas is at the vanguard of snitch testimony,” said Alexandra Natapoff, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, and author of the Snitching Blog. Texas was one of first states to require the corroboration of jailhouse informant testimony and drug snitches, she said. And Dutton’s bill would make Texas among the first states to prohibit prosecutors from offering criminals benefits for their testimony. 

A 2004 Northwestern University study of wrongful convictions found that informants played a major role in more than 45 percent of overturned death sentences nationwide. 

“The use of criminal informants is a massive source of error in our most serious cases,” said Natapoff, who also wrote the book Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice.

She said the Texas bill recognizes that “rewarded testimony by paid informants is one of the riskiest, most unreliable forms of testimony that the criminal justice system tolerates.” And disallowing that testimony in death penalty cases, she said, would acknowledge that cases in which an individual’s life is at stake require a higher ethical standard.

“Criminal informants have strong incentives to lie and very few disincentives to lie, because criminal informants are almost never punished,” Natapoff said.

Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas, said his organization has long pushed lawmakers to restrict the use of informants and snitches.

“That’s what the government does when they really need to convict somebody and they really don’t have the evidence,” Blackburn said. “It sounds dramatic, and it’s very tempting for prosecutors to use.”



State Rep.-elect Joe Moody, an assistant El Paso County district attorney, said accomplices or informants are often the only witnesses who know the circumstances of the crime. Existing rules allow defense lawyers to question informants about deals they may have made with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony. If a defense attorney effectively cross-examines the witness, Moody said, the jury should be able to make an informed decision about the person’s credibility.

Requiring electronic recordings of jailhouse conversations, as Dutton’s bill suggests, Moody said, would force jails to install recording equipment in all of their facilities.

“I think the rule itself would do a disservice to trying the case in the full and open light,” said Moody, D-El Paso. 

In the wake of dozens of wrongful convictions in recent years, Texas has passed a number of measures to prevent such injustices and to compensate the victims of the criminal justice system’s mistakes. Most recently, in 2011, legislators passed a bill that improved police procedures for eyewitness identifications after studies showed misidentifications played a major role in many wrongful convictions.

Dutton has filed similar proposals to curb the use of informants in past sessions, and they have failed. As Texas continues to make national headlines with its exonerations, Dutton said, he is hopeful that lawmakers will be more amenable in the 2013 session. 

“Members now recognize that Texas needs to do a lot better job of protecting the integrity of our legal system,” he said. “The truth of the matter is all the systems we have in place to protect innocent people from being convicted simply haven’t worked.”

Pardon Leonard Peltier – Citizens of the United States of America, Citizens of te World appeal…


incident at oglala
incident at oglala (Photo credit: we are at war)

we petition the obama administration to:

Pardon Leonard Peltier

We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America, the Citizens of the world, do hereby appeal and in fact DEMAND the unconditional release of Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota Indian currently serving 2 life sentences for the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. 

It is our belief, that Leonard Peltier is, in fact  a U.S. Political Prisoner who should be immediately and unconditionally released through a long awaited presidential pardon. 

Supporters include over 30 million people, human rights organizations such as; Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Congress of American Indians, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.


Published on PR Watch (

Private Prison Company Used in Drug Raids at Public High School

Corrections Corporation of America

Used in Drug Sweeps of Public School Students

by Beau Hodai [1] — November 27, 2012 – 7:00am
read whole article with that link above: here only some lines

An unsettling trend appears to be underway in Arizona: the use of private prison employees in law enforcement operations.

The state has graced national headlines in recent years as the result of its cozy relationship with the for-profit prison industry. Such controversies have included the role of private prison corporations in SB 1070 and similar anti-immigrant legislation disseminated in other states; a 2010 private prison escape that resulted in two murders and a nationwide manhunt; and a failed bid to privatize nearly the entire Arizona prison system.

Thanks to Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News (, for his contribution to this article. CMD staffers Rebekah Wilce and Alex Oberley also contributed to this article. The article is also available at DBA Press [10], and a shorter version will appear in the December 2012 issue of Prison Legal News.

Center for Media and Democracy&nbsp;• 520 University Avenue, Suite 260&nbsp;• Madison, Wisconsin 53703<BR>Phone: 608-260-9713&nbsp;• Fax: 608-260-9714

misss. county jails kids …


Children at N.Y. Zoo (LOC)
Children at N.Y. Zoo (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

In Meridian, Miss., it is school officials – not police – who determine who should be arrested. Schools seeking to discipline students call the police, and police policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency, according to a Department of Justice lawsuit. The result is a perverse system that funnels children as young as ten who merely misbehave in class into juvenile detention centers without basic constitutional procedures. The lawsuit, which follows unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the county, challenges the constitutionality of punishing children “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience” and alleging that the city’s police department acts as a de facto “taxi service” in shuttling students from school to juvenile detention centers. Colorlines explains:

Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.

madness at supermax

English: Aryan Brotherhood tattoo.
English: Aryan Brotherhood tattoo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An American Gulag: Descending into Madness at Supermax
A detailed new federal lawsuit alleges chronic abuse and neglect of mentally ill prisoners at America’s most famous prison. (First in a three-part series.)
             read whole article here:


Index of Photographic Exhibits to Plaintiffs’ Complaint, Bacote, et al v. United States Bureau of Prisons, et al
Andrew Cohen 

When Jack Powers arrived at maximum-security federal prison in Atlanta in 1990 after a bank robbery conviction, he had never displayed symptoms of or been treated for mental illness. Still in custody a few years later, he witnessed three inmates, believed to be members of the Aryan Brotherhood gang, kill another inmate. Powers tried to help the victim get medical attention, and was quickly transferred to a segregated unit for his safety, but it didn’t stop the gang’s members from quickly threatening him.

Not then. And certainly not after Powers testified (not once but twice) for the federal government against the assailants. The threats against him continued and Powers was soon transferred to a federal prison in Pennsylvania, where he was threatened even after he was put into protective custody. By this time, Powers had developed insomnia and anxiety attacks and was diagnosed by a prison psychologist as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

F.E.A.T. for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Rescooped by Circle of Hope from CIRCLE OF HOPE

Grandma Edna Gordon, 91, asks for Leonard Peltier:

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier…make that 37 years now for Leonard as a political prisoner of the USA.  He was 31 when he was falsely imprisoned in 1976; he’s now 68.  

His personal friend, Seneca Wisdomkeeper Grandma Edna Gordon, now 91, author of 2 books* of ancient wisdom for modern times, asks President Obama:



free our brother Leonard.

Tens of millions will applaud you  when you do.

You will touch the heart of humanity.


From each and all of our hearts, Mr. President,



Free our beloved brother

after 37 years if imprisonment

for the crime of standing up for his People…

for the crime of being INNOCENT.


Yes, free Leonard,

a brave and loving man,

as near as we’re likely to get

in these dark times  

to a Human Manifestation

of the sacred White Buffalo,

the very symbol of ALL HUMANITY


Free him & you free us All—

including yourself, Mr President.


We, your People, pray that you


                                                        –Grandma Edna Gordon via Harvey Arden

my comment:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa


If you agree with this,

send a reply to this email with ‘AGREE’ on subject line

&/Or leave a message or CC of this statement by Edna to


*Voice of the Hawk Elder ( (2006)

& A Broomstick Revolution ( (2012)

Also check Leonard’s own book: