Snitch: Informants, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed tomorrow at 7 pm. He was denied clemency today in what may go down as yet another case of police corruption.

Davis was convicted for the killing of a police officer but he maintains his innocence. Despite several witnesses recanting their stories, Davis is still set to die. One of the two witnesses who didn’t recant his story is presumed to be the killer by many with knowledge of the incident.

This would strike many as shady. However, it might be another case of the corrupt police policy to coddle informants, even potentially dangerous ones.

Ethan Brown breaks down this phenomenon in his book “Snitch: Informants, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice”.

According to Brown, prosecutors are allowed to reduce sentences on criminals if they are willing to cooperate with law enforcement under Section 5k1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Cooperation could include testifying against state targets or going undercover and implicating the targets in crimes.

Even though informants work for the police, they are allowed to participate in illegal activity like drug dealing in order to catch criminals in the act of crimes. Some informants have even been able to get away with murder.

According to Brown, Gary Thomas Rowe, one of former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover’s informants, beat civil rights workers and attacked them with blackjacks, chains and pistols. He was also present for murders but wasn’t guided to intervene because that wouldn’t make him a “good informant”.

“Snitch” documents numerous cases up until the present of cooperators and informants who have been able to avoid harsh sentences by working with the police. They’ve been let loose on the streets for no other reason than to assist in investigations, often by providing false testimony. These criminals have used 5K motions to continue to commit crimes and “get out of jail free”.

The double game played by these criminals is both detrimental to society and the justice system that created the atmosphere for it.

“Snitch” highlights this corruption with stories of prosecutors relentlessly attempting to implicate innocent men in crimes, and often succeeding, as well as cooperators who never stop committing crimes (One was even implicated in the murder of a prosecutor).

Despite these clear dangers of police cooperation policy, efforts to bring them to light have been stifled, according to Brown.

One of the most infamous of these efforts was the “Stop Snitching” campaign. It started when a barber in Baltimore made a film interviewing people from around his neighborhood, including Carmelo Anthony, about people snitching in the community. The film was filled with threats but it also named names of corrupt police officers and informants.

Media and police tried to demonize the makers of the video for witness intimidation but the “Stop Snitching” movement became a cultural phenomenon anyway (or possibly because of the controversy).

When a policy endangers the public, people have the right to know. What good does it serve society if the police are as dangerous or more so than the criminals they’re assigned to protect us from?

It’s imperative to learn how this system works so more innocent people aren’t killed by it, as Troy Davis is scheduled to be tomorrow.

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3 Responses to “Snitch: Informants, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice”

  1. Davis’ death made me rethink my stance on the death penalty. This country needs to stop murdering its citizens so readily. Did you hear the GOP debate crowd cheer when Rick Perry mentioned how many Texans he’s put to death? –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xT1iMvTwYI– However violent and absolute the revenge, it still never undoes the convict’s crime. It still may be proper in situations with abundant dna evidence toward serial killers and those who kill in prison. Several shooters tend to kill themselves after their spree, but perhaps serial killers are another breed of psychopath. They leave it up to us. It’s not about revenge, it’s about safety and justice.

    • P.S. may Troy Davis rest in peace.

    • I don’t know if some people realize just how behind the rest of the Western world we are in terms of ending the death penalty. It’s not just that we execute people, but in the case of someone like Troy Davis, we strap them on the gurney for hours beforehand, which is a form of torture. As far as that debate, it just shows we have a bloodthirsty nation. It’s the same mentality that says invading other countries that had nothing to do with attacking us is a reasonable solution. If only we could feel as strongly about getting justice as we do revenge. Hopefully that will come as this violent society continues to evolve.

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