A Los Angeles federal judge is allowing defense attorneys to conduct an investigation of secret records on the district attorney’s unethical use of jailhouse informants in the 1970s and ’80s, reports the Los Angeles Times. U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz ruled that attorneys for Thomas L. Goldstein could investigate charges of widespread corruption in the district attorney’s use of such informants. Goldstein – who spent 24 years wrongfully imprisoned on murder charges, partly on the word of a jailhouse informant – sued Los Angeles County and Long Beach after he was freed last year.
In 1990, a special county grand jury said that the district attorney’s office had “failed to fulfill the ethical responsibilities required of a public prosecutor.” The investigation, which showed that prosecutors frequently presented the same dubious informants in multiple cases without telling defense attorneys, led to a significant reduction in their use. Goldstein’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of an eyewitness who later recanted and of a jailhouse informant who a judge said “fits the profile of the dishonest jailhouse informant.”