A bill that would improve recordkeeping and disclosure regarding jailhouse informants just passed out of the California Legislature’s Public Safety Committee. The bill would also cap certain informants benefits. Bill here and ACLU press release here.
I testified in support of the bill along with Bruce Lisker, who was wrongfully convicted of murder at age 17 based on jailhouse informant testimony, and spent 26 years in prison before he was exonerated. Here is Mr. Lisker’s testimony from today’s hearing:
“Honorable Assembly Persons, my name is Bruce Lisker. I am here to urge a YES vote on AB359. On March 10, 1983 my teenage world became a nightmare. I discovered my mother beaten, stabbed and left for dead on the floor of our Sherman Oaks home. It wasn’t long before a corrupt LAPD detective was, unbelievably, arresting ME for the attack. I was cast into the notorious “Snitch Tank” at L.A. County Jail, where I met a vile creature known as Robert Hughes, a morally bankrupt jailhouse informant with an extensive rap sheet and one overriding mission – to get out of jail.
After conning me into innocent conversation, Hughes told police I’d confessed to him. I was the fourth target of his lies inside of 18 months. Police fed him cigarettes and food, flew him in private LAPD aircraft – and my prosecutor got him sprung from prison months early.
Hughes’ lies, and the criminal justice system that encourages them, cost me more than twenty-six years of freedom and youth I can never get back. Had AB359 been the law of the land, my lawyer would have known that Hughes had a lengthy history of severe mental health issues, including documented psychotic breaks.
He was given inducements to investigate and testify against me, had unrecorded interviews with police about the case, and undue influence rewarded his lies with the thing he coveted most, his freedom. All this was hidden or misrepresented by police and prosecutors.
Evidence is clear – jailhouse informant testimony is a leading causes of wrongful conviction in America. As demonstrated by the recent outrage in Orange County, and investigations in at least five other California counties, this problem persists. Please vote YES on AB359. Society deserves no less.”