Nearly four years after Orange County's comprehensive jailhouse snitch program came to light, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing in an attempt to finally end it. For decades, sheriff's department personnel have cooperated with the district attorney's office in placing well-groomed informants next to unsuspecting criminal defendants in an effort to extract incriminating information.
The only problem is that these efforts likely violated those defendants' constitutional rights, and those involved are accused of lying under oath to keep the entire program concealed. You can see the ACLU's lawsuit below.
The extent of the jailhouse snitch program (and the cooperation between the Orange County District Attorney's Office and the Orange County Sheriff's Department is described in the suit:
Large numbers of "professional" informants, working at the behest of both agencies, have interrogated criminal defendants in violation of those defendants' right to an attorney. Informants also violated criminal defendants' due process rights by threatening violence to obtain the information they wanted. Some went as far as telling defendants they had been "greenlit" -- meaning that the prisoner was on a hit list to be assaulted or even executed on sight, a fate they could only avoid by confessing to their involvement in the crime. In some cases, the choice was clear: confess or die. Informants were paid handsomely -- hundreds of thousands of dollars, in some cases -- and often given time off their own sentences in exchange for unlawfully collecting this information.
In addition, sheriff's officers are accused of lying under oath regarding the program's existence and suppressing evidence that could expose the program.
Rights and Responsibilities
The ACLU's suit is asking a California state court to declare the jailhouse snitch program unconstitutional, prohibit the county from continuing the program, and disclosure of all instances the program was used to obtain incriminating information.
"District attorney's offices and sheriff's departments have the responsibility to pursue justice and uphold the law," said ACLU Staff Attorney Somil Trivedi. "Orange County's jailhouse informant scam does the opposite, and we're suing to end it." The full lawsuit is below: