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Gigi Gordon, Directing Attorney
Post Conviction Assistance Center
I. Who is the informant?
1) True name of informant, aka’s, name changes, false identifications
2) The Snitch’s circle
3) Prior experience
II. Why is he/she informing? (Bias and Motive to Lie)
1) Type of arrest in his/her case
2) Informant’s custodial status, pending cases, priors, parole status
3) Drug of choice
4) Family or life on the outside
6) Other benefit, money, witness protection, reduction of sentence, no file on three strikes, letter to parole board, better housing
7) The good citizen, hater of criminals who commit crime X, or doesn’t know because he/she wasn’t promised anything, hates gang members
8) Enemies, keep-aways, softs, prison gang issues, k-9’s
III. A Plant or a Volunteer?
1) How did this person come to inform against your client? Telephone call to police, police contact with informant? Volunteer or drafted?
2) If drafted, see
a. US. V. Henry (1980) 447 U.S. 264
b. Massiah v. United States (1965) 377 U.S. 201
c. Maine v. Moulton (1985) 474 U.S. 159
d. Kuhlman v. Wilson (1985) 477 U.S. 436
3) How did informant come to be celled with, on the court line with, in a conversation with, your client? Was he?
4) Prior experience, prior confessions to
5) Pattern and practice of your jail, your prosecutor, your cops
a. See People v. Jesse Gonzalez (1990) 51 Cal 3d 1179
IV. What is the substance of the statement made to the informant?
1) Full-blown confession
2) Details nobody else would know
3) Missing element of the offense
assassination, the laugh, the lack of remorse, normal behavior, abnormal
1) Snitch’s true name
a. The first question to any informant when he testifies is whether the name he gave the jury on direct is the name he was born with, the name on his birth certificate
b. This is important because most people have one name, the name they are born with. A person who uses or has used more than one name usually has a not very good reason for doing so. Think about it. What kind of person lies out on the street when asked the simple question, “what’s your name?”
c. Try to get the name before he testifies.
i. Once you find out the false name, find out why the informant used it
1. Lied to the cops?
2. Lied on a job application?
3. Lied to friends?
4. Lied to get advantage for himself?
5. Lied to shield who he really was?
6. Lied because true name reveals bad character or prior history?
ii. Did the government ever allow the informant to testify or remain in custody under a false name? Why?
iii. If the informant has monikers, gang names, ask about them
1. Ask why they have the name “killer,” “sneezy?”
iv. Tattoos are also often an interesting source of information and identity.
1. Most booking sheets and jail records will record monikers, tattoos, and other identifying information.
d. Do NOT assume that the name you are given is in fact the snitch’s true name.
i. You need to find each and every name ever used by the snitch.
1. Rap sheets may have one or more names
2. Birth certificate
3. Official name change, court filings
4. Court files, probation reports
a. (Move to unseal)
2) The Snitch’s Circle – Family, friends, and Enemies
a. Once you know the snitch’s identity, find:
i. His girlfriend
iii. Former wives
iv. Former crime partners
b. Find those people who really know this guy.
i. When you do you will always find something interesting.
c. The purpose of collecting this information is to use it to impeach the informant or to scare off the prosecutor.
i. It is evidence of bad character
ii. Propensity to lie
iii. Reputation for dishonesty
iv. Motive to lie
v. Wheeler moral turpitude
d. If and when the informant claims that he is testifying because of “X,” you may be able to prove that “X” is not true
1. Cheated on his wife/girlfriend, bigamy
2. Stole money from his family or employer
3. Forged checks, forged identity, forged anything
4. Uses drugs, used drugs
a. (Check prison file)
5. Mental instability
6. Fails to pay child support
7. False insurance claims, false welfare, false SSI, false workers comp, false injuries
8. Ratted out his crime partner
9. Made statements about his good relationship with cops, how he was getting out of jail.
10. Hasn’t seen family or abandoned family obligations
11. Got fired from his job for stealing, drug usage, etc
12. Refutes some other credential, story, or history the informant chooses to tell
13. Used his family members to procure information for him
14. Family members have some relationship to police
15. Family involved in crimes with him
16. Family in jeopardy from police