The Truth About Courtroom Liars
The law recognizes the simple reality that any witness—prosecution or defense—whose testimony was secured with something of value has been bribed and thus untrustworthy.
It would be fair to say that snitch evidence has been around as long as there have been snitches. And yet, relying on criminals to provide honest testimony is a wholly nefarious undertaking, one that is now recognized as a widely corrupting and corrosive influence within the criminal justice system.
Recorded cases of snitch witnesses date to at least 1754 in England when Joshua Kidden was fingered for robbing Mary Jones and subsequently hanged. The truth? Mary Jones identified Kidden as the robber but she was actually part of a conspiracy that set up the unsuspecting Kidden by planting a coin on him and then lying about it in court.
Snitch evidence has always been suspect. And it has been particularly so in recent years. As recently as January 2012, the US Supreme Court has been examining the role of snitch evidence. The problem inherent with snitch testimony? If you offer witnesses an incentive to lie, they will. The result? A far greater likelihood that the innocent will be convicted, the guilty will go unpunished and justice is denied.
The Northwestern University School of Law’s Center for Wrongful Convictions did a 2004 examination of death row exonerations and found that snitches were the leading cause of wrongful convictions in capital cases, accounting for nearly half of the 11 death row exonerations. And these cases represent just the tip of the scales of justice imbalance; there are many people serving prison sentences for all types of crimes they didn’t do because some snitch somewhere gave up false testimony on them.
Jesse Brooks is one of them.
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