Huffington Post offers this comprehensive retelling of the entire Orange County snitch scandal, from the first revelations all the way to Scott Dekraai’s 8 life sentences, with reactions from the victims’ families: A Mass Shooting Tore Their Lives Apart. A Corruption Scandal Crushed Their Hopes For Justice.
At the recommendation of the Timothy Cole Commission, Texas has passed strong new legislation requiring the government to collect a range of data on its jailhouse informants, including prior testimony and benefits, and to turn that data over to the defense. The bill is here.
And here is the New York Times Editorial Board’s glowing review of the new law, Texas Cracks Down on the Market for Jailhouse Snitches, calling it “the most comprehensive effort yet to rein in the dangers of transactional snitching.” The Times also notes, however, that prosecutors are supposed to turn over such evidence anyway and that further reforms are called for, such as reliability hearings and barring informants in capital cases.
Originally posted May 3: In a rare display of potential discipline, the prosecutor who misused a jailhouse informant against Cameron Todd Willingham–John Jackson–is on trial for ethics violations. “Specifically, the state’s lawyers contend that Jackson made a deal with a jailhouse snitch who agreed to testify against Willingham and then hid that deal from Willingham’s defense attorneys — a clear violation of both law and ethics. They say that Jackson took extraordinary measures over the next two decades to conceal his deceitful actions.” Here is the story from The Intercept.
Update May 13: The jury acquitted prosecutor John Jackson. From The Marshall Project: “By an 11-to-1 vote, a Navarro County jury rejected claims by the State Bar of Texas that Jackson made false statements, concealed evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense and obstructed justice.”
Montana State Senator Nels Swandal (R) has introduced legislation–SB0249–that would improve the reliability and accountability of informant use. Among other things, the bill would require the recording of informant statements, improved disclosure of informant benefits and prior criminal history, reliability hearings, and post-conviction remedies for wrongful conviction. News coverage here.
The Marshall Project is reporting that two prosecutors directly implicated in Orange County’s jailhouse snitch scandal are running for judicial office. From the story, ‘The Scandal-Singed DAs Who Wants to be Judges‘:
For the past year, the district attorney’s office in Orange County, Calif., has been battling the fallout from revelations of a decades-old scheme of planting secret informants near defendants’ jail cells…Now two longtime prosecutors from that same office — Michael Murray and Larry Yellin — are running for Superior Court judgeships, aiming to take the bench alongside judges who have called them out for misconduct. Neither prosecutor has been formally sanctioned in the scandal. But both are supervisory-level district attorneys in an office that a judge recently ruled “habitually ignored the law over an extended period of time.” Both, by their own admission, have withheld evidence. And both are considered shoo-ins by the local press.