Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — On August 1st, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation which precludes a judge or jury from handing down a conviction based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an in-custody informant. The legislation requires that testimony of an in-custody informant be corroborated by ‘other evidence’ that connects the defendant with the commission of an offense. “The new legislation doesn’t address what constitutes ‘other evidence’ – is this other evidence required to be from some other reliable source? Obviously this would include ‘hard’ evidence such as DNA or fingerprinting, but beyond that the new law doesn’t help us establish what is considered reliable or better quality evidence,” says Stephen P. Naratil.
“SB 687 ensures that in-custody informant testimony is supported by corroborating evidence that connects the accused with the crime that was committed,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “Without the safeguards created in this legislation, the potential for the miscarriage of justice when informant testimony is involved is just too high.” “But,” says Naratil, “so, what is this corroborating evidence? This bill simply doesn’t address the problem of the unreliability of the snitch. If the snitch was treated as any other witness, i.e. no benefits given for their testimony (except for their time in court, such as expert witnesses or even regular witnesses who can sometimes collect a small daily fee, usually about $35, for testifying), we would stop this snitch problem. Plain and simple, the snitch wants a better deal for himself/herself, and they will lie to do it. If prosecutors would stop being so bent on getting convictions with snitches, our justice system would be much better off.”
“The quality of evidence in snitch cases is traditionally low” says Naratil, “many incarcerated informants have incentive to lie and have no incentive to be truthful, and for the most part it has been up to the judge to reject or accept low quality evidence.” Often times, Naratil admits, the only evidence that exists is the snitch’s testimony. “This legislation raises the larger issue of admissibility of evidence, and given the incarcerated informants already established propensity to commit a crime, it will be very interesting to see this legislation play itself out.” “And,” adds Naratil, “the quality of snitch evidence is even worse in the Federal system, and this California bill obviously does not apply there.”
Stephen Naratil has been a practicing criminal attorney, defense attorney and DUI attorney for more than 14 years and is Legal Analyst on NBC regarding the Jon Benet Ramsey case and the Scott Dyleski Trial. He has been interviewed on ABC, CBS and Fox News. Click here to see Stephen Naratil’s media interviews. He has been nationally recognized as the lawyer people turn to when they or their loved ones are in trouble. Mr. Naratil has handled all types of cases in both State and Federal court, and handles all types of criminal matters.
He practices law in Oakland, San Francisco and Vallejo/Benicia, California. In San Francisco, please call 415-829-5210. In Oakland, call 510-250-0707. In Contra Costa County, call 925-658-5577. In Solano County, call 707-361-4095. Stephen P. Naratil can be contacted at any time, 24 hours a day/7 days per week at 877-41-SN-LAW (877-417-6529). Primary mailing address: 601 1st Street, Suite 250B, Benicia CA 94510, Telephone: 707-361-4095, FAX: 707-747-6610. His San Francisco office is located at 71 Stevenson St., Suite 400, San Francisco CA 94105 Telephone: 415-829-5210. Visit his website here.
Stephen P. Naratil, Esq.
Law Offices of Stephen P. Naratil