National attention is finally turning to the Orange County fiasco. The judge has kicked the entire District Attorney’s Office off the case, largely because so many prosecutors and sheriffs lied under oath to protect their secret records and unconstitutional practices. Dean Erwin Chemerinsky has called for an independent inquiry and major reforms; Al Jazeera has revealed secret recordings of the informant’s negotiation with sheriffs; Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick says the scandal “shows eerie parallels” to other jailhouse informant debacles. Speaking to Slate, Laura Fernandez at Yale Law School concludes that the “massive cover up by both law enforcement and prosecutors…has effectively turned the criminal justice system on its head.”
Hopefully all this attention will finally persuade lawmakers that jailhouse informants are a public policy worth regulating properly at the front end, instead of waiting for some intrepid defense attorney or journalist to uncover a disaster. For jurisdictions that have recently concluded as much, see this post.