Friday, August 08, 2008

The Rat Trap: Death Row Exonerations Expose Pitfalls of the "Snitch" System

If the state of North Carolina had its way, Jones, 49, would have been strapped to a gurney years ago, hooked to an IV and pumped full of a lethal, three-drug cocktail until he asphyxiated.

Instead, on May 2, he walked out of prison a free man after spending 13 years on death row, and another 24 months locked up awaiting retrial -- all for a murder he almost certainly did not commit.

Jones -- known to friends and family as "Bo" -- was released with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Capital Punishment Project after the prosecution's star witness recanted her testimony against him. (Lovely Lorden, a former girlfriend, admitted she'd collected $4,000 in reward money in exchange for testifying against Jones.)[...]

The prosecution felt little obligation to question the veracity of Lorden's claim. And if the witness is to be believed today, investigators actually helped her keep her story straight.

As a result of Lorden's testimony -- and despite the lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime -- a jury convicted Jones in 1993 and he was sentenced to die for Grady's killing.

What Jones' attorneys didn't know at the time -- and, as it turns out, didn't really bother trying to uncover -- is that Lovely Lorden had made something of a career out of testifying against people close to her. By her own admission, she has aided law enforcement in dozens of investigations and says she helped police make cases against several other boyfriends, as well as her own brother and sons.

What's more, her work as a confidential informant didn't stop after Jones was sent to death row. Jones' attorneys sent In These Times copies of receipts that show Lorden was paid money at least seven times for her work as a confidential informant from December 2003 to April 2004, while Jones sat in jail.

Today, Lorden contends she testified against Jones under pressure from the police, in particular Dalton Jones (no relation), the lead officer in the case.[...]

Unfortunately, the case of Levon Jones is not an anomaly. He is the fifth death row prisoner to be exonerated in the past year. Since December, North Carolina alone has released three inmates from death row after it was determined that they did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted. Of these three men, two, including Jones, were convicted on the false testimony of snitches.[...]

Unfortunately this article is way to long to quote all of it in here but I would really recommend to read all of this really interesting, informing and educating article at

Please also read the answer of Ron Keine - an exoneree himself - to this article which I posted as a comment to this post

1 comment:

Susanne said...

Because of the 129 death row exonorations and Hundreds of DNA exonorations for lesser crimes, We are reading more and more about scrutiny of the American justice system. People are asking questions and losing faith in the "greatest justice system in the world." Almost half of my fellow death row exonerated were convicted on "snitch" testimony. I offer my own case as an example.

I was put on death row right after my arraignment for the two months preceding my trial. (and we always thought you have to be found guilty of something to go to prison much less death row). At my trial two prison snitches claimed that I confessed to them . There was no physical evidence what so ever. In order for someone to believe what the snitches said , I would have had to do the following.

First I would have to break out of my death row cell in full view of the guards who sat at the desk at the end of the row. Next I would have to break out of a catwalk area. Then out of the cell block into the yard in full view of all the lights and guards in the towers with machine guns. Then instead of scaling a fence or a wall to gain freedom I supposedly broke into another part of the prison where they keep snitches and homosexuals in a protective custody unit. I broke into that heavily guarded catwalk, found two snitches and confessed to them. ( Wait it gets even better) I then broke out of the protective custody catwalk and out of that building. Now, instead of trying to escape I retraced my steps going back to death row, breaking in to the building, catwalk and my cell right under the noses of the guards.

Any sane person would look at this and know that no one could possibly believe this scenario. Well 12 jurors at my trial did and sentenced me to death. The only other evidence was a false eye witness who later recanted and told how the prosecution made her lie.

This recent article (see below) Is asking for corroboration of snitch testimony. In my case they had that corroboration. they merely got another snitch to corroborate the first one. A crucial point that should be looked at with a little more attention is the fact that most prison or jailhouse snitches lie. Prosecutors and police have a list of snitches that they can use at any time. Some of these law enforcement officials show little regard for the truth but only to bolster their case. ( has anybody ever heard of a prosecutor who gave his snitch a lie detector test? Why not? is the truth that irrelevant to his case?

In my quest to be an informed abolitionist I have read hundreds of cases. Many of these are wrongful convictions. I feel that any time snitch testimony is used in a case It reeks of corrupt prosecution. That and hiding evidence are the trademarks of a corrupt prosecutor. This article below asks for more rules of evidence to protect the innocent. To me it would just be more laws for these arrogant and crooked prosecutors to ignore.

Some might think ( and some have told me so) that I am too hard on prosecutors. That there are only a few bad ones. Let me give a few facts here. Over two thirds of all capital cases are overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective defense council which counts for a small amount of the total. In the 129 death row exonorations and hundreds of lessor crime exonorations where did the evidence come from against the innocent defendant? It was manufactured or fabricated by the prosecutor. Many times with the full cooperation of the police and sometimes even judges. How many times has a prosecutor been charged with attempted murder when he knowingly sent an innocent man to be executed or used manufactured evidence to convict him? Prosecutors are politicians. They are not in office because they are adept at law. They won a popularity contest called an election. They can do as they please and have the county checkbook at their disposal. Most have immunity which protects them from the law when they do wrong. I have never seen a case where a prosecutor was ever recalled for his or her misdeeds. How can we have a just system when the top officials are corrupt? I have to wonder some times who is the biggest crook? Is it the corrupt prosecutor who constantly and sometimes on a daily basis breaks the law or the crackhead he is maliciously prosecuting? To quote a certain bible belt prosecutor who braggingly said "Any prosecutor can convict a guilty man, It takes a damm good one to convict an innocent one.

About two years ago I had just given a speech when a man who claimed to be a prosecutor told me that he is for the death penalty because it "helps with the black problem". To this day I fault myself for not just bitch slapping that S.O.B.. Am I really too hard on Prosecutors?

In summary, making more laws or court rules will never fix the justice system . We already have laws in place that cover just about everything we could ever think of. The system is not flawed by laws. It is flawed by the human element. Aside from a few honest mistakes it is rampant with corruption. We will never fix the justice system until we start addressing the people who misuse it.

Ron Keine