Albert “Ian” Schweitzer spent 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, based on faulty DNA testing and two different lying informants–one drug defendant and one jailhouse informant. The first informant received probation instead of significant jailtime and avoided federal prosecution. The jailhouse snitch avoided retrial and a potential 10-year sentence. Story from the Hawaii Innocence Project here: Ian Schweitzer Exonerated of Murder After 25 Years in Hawaii. Thanks to Radley Balko’s The Watch for highlighting the story.
The case is an example of a larger forensic problem. Jailhouse snitch testimony often comes into existence in order to bolster weak cases. High profile murders tend to generate snitch testimony since informants know that rewards are forthcoming. The problem is worse for weak cases: if the case were strong, the government wouldn’t need the snitch. The confluence creates a pernicious storm of inaccuracy where bad evidence makes other bad evidence look better than it actually is. For more examples see this previous post about dog sniff and arson bolstering.