Credible claims of innocence can be shattered in an instant under the weight of an informant’s false testimony in court. An informant’s motives for lying on the stand may include revenge against the defendant, money, or a reduction in pending charges or an active sentence. All too often, jurors do not hear about these motives.
Open discovery removes some of the element of surprise for the defense. Sanctions for undisclosed deals in exchange for testimony are a motivating reminder of the duty to disclose. Other remedies include eliminating rewards for informant testimony, prohibiting prosecutions based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an incarcerated informant, prohibiting the planting of informants, establishing an informant registry, and providing cautionary jury instructions.