Law enforcement and corrections officers have often relied on the help of informants to gather information about criminal activity. Often an offender charged with a lesser offense will be offered a deal if they will provide information about a larger, more dangerous crime. However, what if they way these informants are being used is illegal? There are increasing instances where these practices are being identified as unconstitutional, and the most egregious example comes from Orange County, California.
ORANGE COUNTY SCANDAL
Recently, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s office have been implicated in a decades-long scandal of inappropriately using informants. Among the allegations, the information gathered by informants was only partially used, where anything leading towards a conviction was entered and any info that helped the defense was omitted. Furthermore, in what violates the defendant’s right to counsel, many of these recordings occurred after a defense attorney was obtained. There are also allegations of a database of informants that was utilized by prosecutors and law enforcement, where informants were moved around like chess pieces, placed with one defendant after another. Some of these practices could be precedent to secure the release of guilty individuals. In a disturbing, albeit, not illegal instance, Huffington Post reported about transcripts between informants and law enforcement, where the informants are promised the ability to join the military so they can “kill people legally and get away with it.”
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this case is that, as the Washington Post reports, felons who informed were allowed to go free to cover up their involvement in this scandal. Moreover, at least three dozen cases are affected, including a mass-murder case, where an entire DA office was recused from the case. Many are calling for a detailed investigation and insisting the Department of Justice get involved.
If these allegations are true, it would appear that both Orange County Sheriffs and District Attorneys have acted in an illegal manner, as if they were above the law. What do you think: Is this use of information gathering necessary or useful? Does it violate our constitutional rights? Do the ends justify the means if it helps lock away a violent offender? What if this practice could ultimately get the same offender’s case dismissed? Let us know your thoughts: Facebook and Twitter