A bill that would prohibit criminal convictions based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a jailhouse informant has passed the state Assembly.
The bill, SB 687, implements a 2006 commission recommendation that the state establish safeguards to protect against wrongful convictions based on informant testimony, the bill’s author, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said.
“We know that when used properly, jailhouse informants can be a good investigative tool for prosecutors, but they can also be destructive, crime-producing and corruptive,” Leno said. “SB 687 ensures that in-custody informant testimony is supported by corroborating evidence that connects the accused with the crime that was committed.”
Other states have similar laws in place, and the Los Angeles District Attorney has adopted a voluntary policy requiring corroborative evidence when the testimony of an informant is used.
“We have not had any problems obtaining convictions as a result of our policy and believe it has helped us to assure the reliability of witness testimony to avoid mistakes in criminal prosecutions,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said.
The bill has the support of prosecutors including the San Francisco district attorney, and is co-sponsored by the California Public Defenders Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.
SB 687 passed the Assembly 47-26 Thursday, and now awaits a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown.
Sara Gaiser, Bay City News