8080 – Snitching Victory


The jailhouse snitch is back in business.  Forty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court condemned the use of placing a jailhouse informer in a defendant’s jail cell to obtain incriminating statements.  Nevertheless, in this case while the defendant was awaiting trial on charges of murder and robbery, officials placed a jailhouse informer in his cell and he basically confessed to the murder.  When the case came to trial, prosecutors conceded the informer’s questioning violated the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and did not present the informer’s testimony in their case-in-chief.  But when the defendant took the stand and fingered a codefendant as the murderer, prosecutors introduced the informer’s testimony to prove the defendant was lying.  The Court noted that it has held in every other context that tainted evidence is admissible to discredit a witness.  So if you happen to be hearing this while you’re in prison, take a close look at your cellmate, because a snitch in time can add to your time.

Kansas v. Ventris, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 07-1356, April 29, 2009, Scalia, J., U. S. Law Week, Vol. 77, No. 42, Pg. 1664, 5-5-09