News 07.17.17

New York Times Lauds Texas’ New Law Regulating Jailhouse Informant Testimony

By Innocence Staff

Last Month, the Innocence Project along with the Innocence Project of Texas announced that Texas passed landmark legislation that will foster accuracy in the criminal justice system by regulating the use of jailhouse informants. This past Saturday, the New York Times Editorial Board published a piece applauding Texas for passing this critical new law, which will help prevent innocent people from being wrongfully convicted.

In its editorial, the New York Times highlighted just how dangerous fabricated testimony by jailhouse informants can be.

The Times wrote: “False testimony from jailhouse informants has been the single biggest reason for death-row exonerations in the modern death-penalty era, according to a 2005 survey by the Center on Wrongful Convictions. They accounted for 50 of the 111 exonerations to that point, and there have been 48 more exonerations since then.”

Texas’ new law, wrote the Times, will help to correct and hopefully prevent this dangerous problem. It is a critical piece of criminal justice reform that will be fundamental in bringing about greater transparency in the use of jailhouse informants in criminal cases.

The law will require county and district attorney’s offices to track information on informants, including the types of benefits informants receive in exchange for their testimony, the previous cases in which they testified and their complete criminal history. Prosecutors will be required to share all of this information with defense attorneys.

Passage of this new law is yet another demonstration of Texas’ commitment to being a national leader in innovative justice reform, wrote the Times. Knowing that jailhouse informants are heavily used to secure countless convictions throughout the country, it is hopeful that other states will urgently follow in Texas’ footsteps and adopt similar laws to ensure that informant system is guided by justice and accuracy.

Read the entire op-ed here.

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