California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law yesterday that aims to prevent wrongful convictions by requiring that jailhouse informant testimony be corroborated.
The new law will prevent juries in the state from convicting a defendant based on informant testimony unless corroborating evidence is presented by prosecutors.
Dozens of Los Angeles County criminal convictions based on the testimony of jailhouse informants have been overturned over the last quarter-century because appeals courts found the key witnesses to be unreliable or self-serving,
reported the Los Angeles Times
. In more than 15% of wrongful conviction cases overturned by DNA testing, an informant or jailhouse informant testified against the defendant. Often, statements from people with incentives to testify – particularly incentives that are not disclosed to the jury – are the central evidence in convicting an innocent person.
The bill was supported by defense attorneys and the San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys.