To the Editor - In response to Jailhouse Informant Legislation

To the Editor,

No one asked me, Charles Picarella Jr. requested that our elected officials weigh in and I’m not elected. However, I am running for the Pennsylvania House in District 64 and I think voters should hear from the people who would represent us.

Jailhouse informants are notoriously unreliable. Too often, they have an incentive to lie, getting leniency or other benefits. The Innocence Project says jailhouse informant testimony is one of the leading contributing factors of wrongful convictions, nearly one in five.

The threshold for criminal conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Introducing evidence from a source without giving context removes the necessary skepticism that might accompany the testimony if we knew that informant got special treatment for providing the evidence.

Harold Hall was charged with murder. The only evidence linking him to the crime was the testimony of two jailhouse informants and notes one of the informants produced. One informant was offered $25 and a pack of cigarettes. The other thought he was going to get leniency on a murder charge he was facing. Even though both witnesses recanted and experts determined that the notes had been altered, the prosecution went ahead with the trial. Hall was sentenced to life in prison. He spent 14 years in prison.

If we are going to use jailhouse informants, there needs to be transparency: what were they given for their cooperation? And they need to be made available for cross examination. All applicable records must be made available to the defense team.

If we are going to have a justice system that lives up to the name, we must first be just. Sending innocents to jail for crimes they did not commit is not just.

Michael Bagdes-Canning,

Candidate for PA 64


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