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10 J. Tech. L. & Pol'y 223 (2005)
Jailhouse Informants: A Lesson in E-Snitching

handle is hein.journals/jtlp10 and id is 227 raw text is: JAILHOUSE INFORMANTS: A LESSON IN E-SNITCHING
Valerie Alter*
I.    INTRODUCTION  .................................... 223
II.   A PRIMER ON JAILHOUSE INFORMANTS .................. 224
III.  A  LESSON IN E-SNITCHING  ........................... 228
IV. CAN STATES PREVENT PRISONERS' ACCESS TO
INTERNET-GENERATED MATERIALS? ................... 231
A. Constitutional Considerations ...................... 232
B. Practical Considerations  .......................... 236
V.    CONCLUSION  ...................................... 240
I. INTRODUCTION
Informants have been falsifying confessions in the United States since
at least 1819. That year, Vermont authorities could not solve an alleged
homicide since the victim was missing, and brought in a known perjurer
for help. The perjurer elicited a confession from a suspect, who received
the death penalty. Days before the hanging was to take to place, the
supposed murder victim returned to town, alive.' Today, jailhouse
informants, many of whom are pathological liars, who tell prosecutors
about suspects' alleged confessions, will receive leniency or other perks.
Problems stemming from this prompted a grand jury investigation in Los
Angeles in 19902 and contributed to the commutation of all Illinois death
sentences in 2003.3
What would happen if it were even easier for informants to get
information about fellow inmates? Would there be more informants, or
would prosecutors and the criminal justice system finally decide that
informants are untrustworthy and that they do more harm than good? With
* Stanford Law School Class of 2005, Law Clerk to the Honorable Sidney R. Thomas, 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals.
1. Sean Gardiner, 'Insider' Trading; Jailhouse Snitches Have Long History of Deals With
DAs, NEWSDAY, Dec. 9, 2003, at A08.
2. Ted Rohrlich, Perjurer Sentenced to 3 Years, L.A. TIMES, May 20, 1992, Part B, at 1.
3. Gardiner, supra note 1.

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