Senator McCaslin has put forward Senate Bill 5004: “An Act relating to disclosure and regulation of criminal informant evidence and testimony“. The Bill would implement various requirements for Washington State’s law enforcement agencies and prosecutors with regard to the management of evidence and testimony provided by informants.
The Bill would impose three major new requirements:
- all statements made by an informant will need to be electronically recorded (either video or audio)
- the prosecution must disclose information about an informant prior to using the informant’s evidence or testimony. The disclosure would include details of the informant’s criminal history, details of any inducements that the informant has received or has been promised, details of the statements made by the informant, details of other cases in which the informant testified and details of the relationship between the accused and the informant.
- a pretrial hearing must be held by the court to assess the reliability of the informant’s testimony and ascertain if there is sufficient additional evidence to corroborate the testimony.
Such a law would significantly reduce the vagaries of the current approach in Washington State and reduce the chances of wrongful conviction based on unreliable informant testimony.
Alexandra Natapoff, a well known expert on the US criminal justice system and the use of confidential informants, has praised the Bill heralding it as “an excellent example of the kinds of legislative change that we can expect more of, as legislatures and the public learn more about the risks of informant use”. She also explains how the Bill arose from the case of the wrongful imprisonment of three young men set up by a confidential informant. Read her post “Washington State introduces exciting new legislation” to find out more.