Compelling witness testimony could secure a conviction in a criminal case. Unfortunately, not all “compelling testimony” is truthful. A witness may implicate another person in a crime after making outright false statements. A Louisiana jury may not realize the witness, a “jailhouse snitch,” bartered with law enforcement officials by exchanging testimony for something of benefit. And perhaps the officials did not care about how accurate the snitch’s claims were.
Wrongful convictions and inmate falsehoods
An inmate could have several reasons to make false claims against another person. A personal grudge or vendetta may drive the decision to implicate someone in a crime. Perhaps the “snitch” believes he or she could appear more favorably to a parole board. So, the selfish inmate implicates an innocent person in a crime.
The inmate may overhear a conversation, but not clearly. However, the inmate runs with the information to secure a deal, “filling in the blanks” with details more favorable to the cause.
If the jury knew the entire story about why a witness chose to come forward, the jury might not regard the testimony as credible. However, the jurors may never know all the details about what prompted the testimony, resulting in a wrongful conviction.
Addressing false testimony
Witness testimony sometimes suffers from coercion. Investigators could guide a snitch to make false statements. In some situations, implied or direct threats may motivate someone to tell untruths that lead to a false conviction. Such civil rights violations may get all those who conspired to deliver false testimony in significant trouble, although someone might spend years in prison until the truth comes out.
Hopefully, conflicting statements and inconsistencies in testimony will cast enough doubt that the snitch’s words carry no weight. A weakness may undermine the prosecutor’s need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.