We’ve all heard of the serious jailhouse informant issues plaguing the fair administration of justice, most notably, the Orange County case that is drawing attention from The U.S. Department of Justice. There, the constitutional abuses have been described as “systemic.”
Generally speaking, a jail house informant that receives a benefit for testifying against a defendant (typically by recounting the defendant’s “confession” of a crime) is saturated with credibility issues. These issues can bubble up to the surface to the point of making the defense attorney physically show her frustration. This is what happened to a Florida public defender, who during the informant’s testimony, pretended to gag. According to the ABA Journal, she underwent a reprimand procedure, but was ultimately placed on probation without suspension.
In a professional sense, such conduct is, of course, unacceptable. But, it is also extremely relatable. In fact, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Having someone, whether it be a lay witness or a police officer, be dishonest or resist telling the truth, is infuriating. I have definitely been in a position where in defending my client, I have shown my discontent with this type of witness. However, such conduct is counterproductive to the priority of maintaining credibility with the court, and most importantly, the jury.