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jailhouse informants

The use of a jailhouse informant is a common practice among district attorneys across the country. Informants, known as “rats” or “snitches” among inmates, are often responsible for providing information that can prove invaluable for meeting the burden of proof. Inmates typically become informants with the hope of shaving time off their sentence. While there is nothing illegal about using informants, the practice can be and is sometimes abused by the district attorney (DA).

It turns out that right here in Orange County, California, the district attorney’s office may be guilty of both prosecutorial misconduct and improper use of jailhouse informants. In March, a request was made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), calling on the county to turn over internal documents, The Orange County Register reports. In response to the ACLU’s request, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas turned over some 300 documents.

The ACLU claims that that the OCDA failed to meet their request in full. The organization sent a letter to the OCDA office, which said it would file a lawsuit against the county if Rackauckas doesn’t respond by July 14, 2016, according to the article. The ACLU is interested in cases dating back to at least the mid-1980’s.

“We do not believe that what you produced satisfies your obligations under the California Public Records Act. Nor does it provide the public with desperately needed insight into the functioning of the District Attorney’s Office,” said ACLU attorney Brendan Hamme in the letter. 

Improper use of jailhouse informants has led to a least two convicted murderers being released, the article reports. Cases are still being reviewed, but charges dropped in a number of cases and sentences were reduced in six murder and attempted cases—the instances are of great interest to the ACLU.

“It is, therefore, deeply troubling that your office refuses to make public the policies and practices that were in place and failed to prevent these constitutional violations from occurring,” wrote Hamme. “Given the breadth of records to which this claim applies … we are very concerned about the way your office maintains these critical documents.” 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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