Recently, Oklahoma became the third state to enact legislation concerning the use of jailhouse informants in criminal prosecutions. The law would require prosecutors to disclose any deals or benefits given to jailhouse informants for testimony, along with their complete criminal history and any previous deals given to such informants, the creation of a central database of jailhouse informants and information related to any deals they have received, and the filing of an annual report on the data collected in the database.
The use of jailhouse informants is not a minor issue in the criminal justice system. Their use calls into question matters of fair and equal justice in a system that has profound consequences in citizens‘ lives. Oklahoma’s legislation was passed following the exonerations of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, convicted of rape and murder based upon the false testimony of a jailhouse informant. Cases such as this erode the foundation of criminal justice system and society’s faith in our courts.
It is now time for Pennsylvania to follow the lead of Oklahoma, Maryland, and Connecticut in enacting legislation requiring disclosure of information that will help to ensure that justice is better served in the Commonwealth by allowing relevant information about jailhouse informants to be considered by judges and juries. These important disclosures do not involve additional burden for the courts; it would serve only to promote justice.
I have sent a copy of this letter to the legislators representing this newspaper’s readership. I now invite them to submit their reply so that the readers may understand their position on this matter.
Charles Picarella Jr.
#MZ7013 SCI Mahanoy
St. Petersburg, FL
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed in “Letters to the Editor” are not necessarily those of the Progress News, the Editor or any of its staff.
All letters to the editor must be signed, dated, brief and to the point to be considered for publication 450 words or less. Letters can be sent to:
Editor, c/o The Progress News, P.O. Box A, Emlenton, PA 16373