Prosecutors May Be Sued Over Jailhouse Informants: Court


Prosecutors can be sued over allegations that they failed to develop policies for the use of jailhouse informants in criminal cases, says a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reported by the Los Angeles Times. The court ruled in a damage case by Thomas Goldstein, who spent 24 years in prison for a wrongful murder conviction based on the testimony of jailhouse informant Edward F. Fink.

Goldstein alleged that then-Los Angeles District Attorney John Van de Kamp had failed to develop policies and procedures, and failed to train and supervise their subordinates, to fulfill their constitutional obligation of ensuring that information regarding jailhouse informants was shared among prosecutors. Goldstein commented that “Jailhouse informants have been used by prosecutors to put a lot of innocent people in prison” and that the ruling “is the first step toward making district attorneys accountable for their actions.” Van de Kamp now heads the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which has urged the state legislature to limit the use of testimony by jailhouse informants in criminal trials.


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