Florida Panel May Call for Reviewing All Jailhouse Informant Testimony


Chad Heins, a Jacksonville, Fl., man, spent 11 years in prison for a murder he did not commit based solely on the testimony of two jailhouse informants who lied to jurors, saying Heins had confessed, says the Orlando Sentinel. The New York-based Innocence Project says 15 percent of all wrongful convictions later cleared by DNA testing featured false testimony by jailhouse informants. In murder cases, it’s 50 percent.

Florida’s Innocence Commission, the blue-ribbon panel working to prevent future false convictions, is debating what to do about them. The panel’s staff is drafting legislation that could make Florida the only state that would require judges to review the reliability of jailhouse informants — as well as any witness with pending criminal charges — before allowing them to testify at a felony trial. Florida now requires a pretrial reliability test for scientific evidence, said Henry “Hank” Coxe III, a panel member and former president of the Florida Bar. If it requires a test for that, it should also for “something this critically important.”

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