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Use of Jailhouse Informants Faulted

Use Of Jailhouse Informants Faulted

A grand jury has issued a stinging rebuke of the Los Angeles district attorney's office for failing to assure that "jailhouse informants" called as prosecution witnesses repeatedly over the last decade were telling the truth. "Very little effort was expended by the DA's office to investigate the background and motivation of most jailhouse informants in order to assess their credibility prior to presenting them in court as witnesses," the grand jury concluded in a 153-page report.

The grand jury did not answer the question of whether law enforcement officials actively solicited informants to lie, as some informants told the grand jury. The grand jury said: "Either egregious perjurers have been used as prosecution witnesses or law enforcement officials committed shocking malfeasance."

The scandal over the reliability of informant testimony first broke into the open in October 1988, when one informant, Leslie White, wrote a magazine article describing how, using pay telephones inside the jail, he could pose as a law enforcement official and gather information about a fellow inmate awaiting trial and the crime he was accused of, and then fabricate a credible-sounding confession purportedly made by the suspect. White later showed those phone skills to officials.

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