In order to convict the State employs a variety of tools, the regular beat cop or sheriffs deputy, up to and including Federal agents, crime lab technicians, medical examiners, prosecutors and more. All of these are paid employees of a State or Federal government, and so whose continued employment depends on the 'finding of evidence' for the purposes of 'closing the case', by any means necessary, even if that 'evidence' is manufactured or manipulated.
The most important, and most frequent, tool employed by the State during the prosecution of a criminal case is the witness/informant whose incentivized testimony is obtained, developed, and delivered for a price, and ultimately at a great cist to the accused. The price being a reduced sentence in the witness' own case, an opportunity to protect their loved ones from prosecution, or perhaps simply a chance for revenge. The cost for the accused can be a life sentence or even death.
The informant/witness also takes many forms, from a jailhouse snitch, professional snitch, accomplice informant, and calumniator. Each, in their own role, is dangerous and detrimental to the fair outcome of any legal proceeding, but for the purpose of this article (as it applies to my own case), the calumniator is the focal point.
The distinction between the accomplice informant and the calumniator is: the accomplice informant is the codefendant of the one the informant is offering information against so as to get their own charges dropped or sentence reduced, while the calumniator is distinguished by the goal to divert culpability onto another so as to avoid liability, which in turn often results in the wrongful conviction of an innocent.
Incentivized benefits range from better food and accommodations, being allowed to bail out of jail, and immunity from charges up to and including m..rd..r. United States v. Boyd, 833 F. Supp.1277 (N.D. I'll. 1993). The United States Supreme Court (USSC), ruled that prosecutors have almost unregulated authority to provide incentives to informants in order to get information and testimony. And from this, the State is, quite literally buying information, albeit disguised and defined as something less.
As far back as the 19th century the USSC acknowledged in United States v. Ford 99 U.S.594 (1878) that a prosecutor has an inherent authority to enter into informal immunity agreements with 'accomplices' in exchange for their cooperation. In the 1920s informant/witnesses became a formal part of the enforcement of law when the different Bureaus began employing snitching as an integral part of the criminal justice apparatus. In the 1970s the use of informants became even more prevalent with the Republican initiated 'War on Drugs' campaign. Then in the 1980s mandatory minimum sentencing resulting from the 'Tough on Crime' rhetoric which could only then be avoided by a 'witness' 'cooperating' with the prosecutor. That same prosecutor having had first charged the suspect turned witness with m.rd.r or accomplice to, and so the now 'codefendant' has little choice but to 'cooperate', even though that means a lie must be told and a story made up.
As abhorrent as a lie told by a witness in a criminal case is, whether informant or law enforcement, it is especially so against one facing a death sentence. Equally contemptible is the coaching, manipulation, coercion, and threats from the police and prosecution in order to elicit the lies and corrupt from their witnesses. Following that there is the cover up of the lies and so the corrupt activities securing the wrongful conviction of an innocent.(see an example(2014)Orange County California District Attorney's Office Scandal) incentive for lying is great and the difficulty and risk of doing so is minimal.
The use of incentivized witnesses to convict is wrong on so many levels, but the making of a witness for the purpose of convicting is beyond that because in many of these instances the witness also becomes a victim.
The police and prosecutors use vulnerable people to fill the role of a witness or informant. The young, uneducated, those suffering from substance abuse, and the mentally ill. Prosecutors and police both pressure people into 'cooperating', making them feel as if it is their only choice and a way out if their own trouble, which is a method to get them to implicate themselves. The instructed techniques of interrogation and supplantation of 'memory' are put to highly effective use during this 'interview' process. A witness can be manipulated by the detective/interrogator by being convinced that something that didn't happen, or doesn't exist, is actually true. So how can this happen?
The interrogator learns how to place the self in close proximity in order to loom, intimidate, and attempt to assert dominance. They come prepared with a few 'facts' from the crime scene, or having already spoken to (threatened) friends or family so that now the interviewee can make the 'right choice' and get them out of trouble or even 'confess' falsely to a crime. Presenting a few basic bits of information increases the likelihood of further belief in what largely amounts to inept guesswork by the investigators. The combination of 'authority', veracity, taught techniques, threats, disorientation, sleep deprecation, and isolation greatly affects a person potentially facing prison time or even missing their next high.
By divulging some other's supposed statement, or the style of clothes the interviewee had on that day may be all it takes to convince a desperate person to say anything to get themselves out if trouble, or to make up a story to place blame on another. After all, "tell us what happened" only translates into 'what do you recall', as this is only 'memory' and is unreliable.
A suggested 'fact' is a seed to be watered and grown into the flower of a memory, a statement, testimony.. More seeds are planted with 'try to remember', and if the memory (story) doesn't fit the known or the direction the interrogator needs then its 'we know you are lying', and so again 'try to picture it', and when more detail is added the 'facts' then make themselves 'known'. At this point when 'cooperation' is achieved, 'what happened next', is wrapped up in a blanket of security, helpfulness, and kindness from the 'good guys'.
A witness tells a story about something they have experienced or seen, and then when they are presented with an 'official' written report of the same event with some details changed, they will then agree that this description is more accurate. So now the 'memory' fits the prescribed account of what 'really happened', and how people, places, and objects 'really were'. Most never notice the change in detail, and so the central evidence in a crime scene now fits the story. The interrogator can slightly alter or add to or subtract an element in a transcribed statement, and the witness later signs this statement as 'true', which in my case turned into 'if the detective said I said this then it must be true'.
Researchers, such as Elizabeth Loftus, have proven that what a witness remembers, and what a suspect admits to, is no longer considered as inherently true or credible, as so crucial to the application of law. Psychologists are used as experts in the courtroom to explain what false memory is, and the USSC has gone so far as to recognize false memories, and knows that jurors do not comprehend how altered changed memories can be.
Confession focused interrogation culture prevails as 99% of all cases result in some sort of plea deal indicates. Police also use rough methods to solicit statements, and later testimony, from people who couldn't possibly have known what they eventually state as 'fact'.
see: Central Park 5, and Chicago Police methods
The Center for Wrongful Convictions did a study on 111 cases in 2005, and out of those 111 cases in which all defendants were exonerated from death row, 51 of those were sentenced to death based on, at least in part, from incentivized testimony of witnesses.
In 2014, a North Western University study concluded that nearly half of wrongfully convicted death sentenced persons were convicted based on false testimony, making it the leading cause in capital cases.
The Innocence Project found that in 25% of DNA exonerations, 11% involved coerced testimony and the rest the knowing use of false testimony.
The National Registry of Exonerations lists 2,842 since 1989, which is an average of 88 per year. In 2016, 81 of the 116 death penalty exoneration a involved perjury and false testimony by incentivized witnesses, which is an increase of 70%.
A study of 124 death row exonerations from 1973-2007 concluded that 80, or 2/3, of those resulted from "intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions", as stated by Prof Richard Moran in 2007. He then went on to say, " When a prosecutor puts a witness on the stand whom he knows to be lying, or fails to turn over evidence favorable to the defence, or when a police officer manufactures or destroys evidence to further the likelihood of a conviction, then it is deceptive to term these conscious violations of law...merely mistakes".
There are more studies and reports just like these, but still little changes, and there are too few real protections from false and misleading testimony. This because prosecutors have immunity and are rarely held accountable for their actions by Sir peers or the courts. To convict is the goal, not justice or fairness or truth. They use and deceive to achieve their agendas.
Witnesses also have agendas, and aren't always solely a victim of the interrogator and prosecutor. Common sense tells us that most people will lie to protect themselves and conceal their own transgressions. They will lie to exact revenge for some perceived slight, whether real or imagined. They lie for personal gain, or just to indulge their malicious nature.
Police too are witnesses, and because they so often give false testimony, a real term of 'testilying' has been given to this. Sadly, and to the detriment of the innocent, the courts rarely punish these perjurers because it is up to the prosecutors to bring charges against their own. Why would they when it would likely result in exposing some corrupt police detective, or even themselves..
The basic rule is that any idiot is competent to testify, so that witness bias or stupidity will not preclude them from proffering testimony. After all, they are 'cooperating' aren't they? And they only get to help themselves by offering only 'truthful testimony' in exchange for reduced sentences or charges dropped altogether, and so surely they are absolutely genuine and sincere..
Even with light shed on this issue, error rates will remain high because the informant/witness is the most important investigative tool for the State, especially when there is no physical evidence linking someone to a crime. Innocents spend literally decades locked away from loved ones and life for crimes they could not have committed. Many, like myself, on death row awaiting an opportunity to prove their innocence through a seemingly endless appeal that is likely to be procedurally barred with no regard for evidence of innocence or wrongdoing, and resulting then in execution or a lifetime under the looming threat of it.
Look at the running clock and ask yourself if it were you or a loved one still waiting to be heard after all this time, is there any justice?