Lying / incentivized witness testimony
In 46% of Louisiana and Mississippi’s exonerations, defendants have been wrongly convicted based, at least in part, on the testimony of a witness who lied or had an incentive to testify against the defendant. “Incentives” to testify range from financial reward for information / testimony to reduced jail time for a “snitch” to the real perpetrator testifying to conceal his own guilt.
For example, in the case of Jimmy Bass the witness who identified him (14 years old at the time of the crime) was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic suffering from auditory, visual and command hallucinations. The witness was also in violation of the terms of his juvenile parole at the time he gave information to the police, was a prior informant for the police and was paid for his testimony. He also admitted during post conviction proceedings that had he lied at Mr. Bass’ trial.
In 2011, Louisiana passed HB 305 which provides for the reduction of a defendant’s sentence for substantial assistance in an investigation. IPNO was opposed to this bill but worked with legislators to help ensure when a snitch witness testify, the content of their deal and the substance of their testimony is disclosed to the defense.
The following Louisiana and Mississippi exonerees were impacted by lying / incentivized witness testimony:
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