The Problem With Confidential Informants

We all want to catch, prosecute and convict violent criminals.  So when the police use investigative tools like confidential informants to gather evidence and develop suspects it should be a good thing, right?  But does the end justify the means? (Read my post on that subject here)  What could possibly go wrong with this concept?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

I recently read a story about a man who stole a car.  When the car thief was arrested he told the cops that there was meth in the car when he stole it.  Based on that information the police busted down the door of the vehicle’s owner and, when the homeowner grabbed a gun to defend himself against the apparent home-invasion the cops shot him dead.

The Innocence Project estimates that 18% of convictions that are overturned because of DNA testing there was in informant who testified against the defendant.  Often these people receive some sort of incentive to provide this testimony, whether it be release from prison, reduced sentence or monetary compensation.  Some of them are witnesses in multiple cases, perhaps “career informants.”

Aside from the obvious concept that a criminal might not be the most honest witness, there is something inherently wrong with a witness-for-hire system.  One has to speculate that such practices would encourage false testimony.

This is even more relevant since the passing of the Patriot Act (see my post on this subject here), giving the federal government the power to detain American citizens without due process based on the suspicion of terrorist activity.  This can be as innocent as someone saying they heard you talking about wanting the current administration out of office.

While I am all for holding people accountable for their actions, I am vehemently opposed to paying or otherwise compensating potential witnesses.  Since 1973 over 130 people who were on death row have been exonerated.   This is just the death row data…how many more convictions have been overturned?  How many innocent people could not afford to continue appeals or the court would not hear them?

Our system is broken.  It will not be fixed until we, the people, demand it from our elected representatives.  I hope and prey that you and your loved ones never face these issues, but if you do, I hope you are more fortunate than those who are currently behind bars…or dead…because someone SAID they did something wrong!

Hate Crime Laws are Hate Crimes

There are several laws on the books making “Hate Crimes” punishable by a tougher penalty than the same act not committed out of “hate.” But what exactly constitutes a “Hate Crime?”

If a white man beats up a black man because he is black it is a hate crime…but if a black man beats up a white man because he is white it is not.  If an arsonist lights a church on fire it is a hate crime.  But if that same arsonist lights a store on fire because he hates the owner it is probably not going to be classified as a hate crime (unless the store owner is a minority).

So why do we have hate crime laws?  The logic was that it would give a stricter punishment for BlindLadyJusticeperforming a malicious act out of spite.  But is this reasonable?  Is the victim any less victimized if they are not being targeted because of prejudice or if the bias is not recognized in one of the special groups that these laws apply to?

So in reality, by passing a law that gives special consideration to some groups over others, we are actually committing what equates to a “hate crime” in that we are singling out individuals and leveling a greater punishment on them than the crime would otherwise warrant.  It would be different if the standard was applied equally across the board, but it is not.  Plus we are telling certain victims that they don’t rate as high on the scale of justice when we don’t classify theattack on them as a hate crime.  All men are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law.  They are all supposed to have the same rights and protections.  Justice is supposed to be blind…but is it?