Florida Ponders Jailhouse Informants, False Conviction Problem
Chad Heins, a Jacksonville man, spent 11 years in prison for a murder he did not commit based solely on the testimony of two jailhouse informants who lied to jurors, saying Heins had confessed.
According to the Innocence Project, a New York nonprofit that works to free the innocent, 15 percent of all wrongful convictions later cleared by DNA testing featured false testimony by jailhouse informants. In murder cases, it’s 50 percent.
Now, Florida’s Innocence Commission, the blue-ribbon panel working to prevent future false convictions here, is debating what to do about them.
The panel could make Florida the only state in the nation that would require judges to review the reliability of jailhouse informants — as well as any witness with pending criminal charges — before allowing them to testify at a felony trial.