Misuse of uncorroborated testimony by jailhouse informants in the 1980s sent dozens to long prison terms for offenses that appellate courts later determined they never committed, notes the Los Angeles Times. But a bill passed by the state Legislature earlier this month and facing a Monday deadline for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign would prohibit future convictions based solely on the testimony of jailhouse informants, who often have something to gain by lying. It’s been a long struggle to get the law changed.
California prosecutors and other tough-on-crime groups remain opposed to the law, which would block convictions in cases without corroborating testimony by uncompromised witnesses or forensic evidence to tie the defendant to the crime. Brown hasn’t indicated whether he will sign it. But he is known to be generally supportive of reforms proposed by a bipartisan task force three years ago that included a call for curbs on self-serving snitches. The legal change was one of numerous recommendations for correcting flaws in the criminal justice system put forward in 2008 by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, whose members include prosecutors, public defenders, victims’ rights advocates and law enforcers. Lawmakers had twice passed similar bills in recent years, but they were vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.