Illinois lawmakers approved tighter restrictions on the use of jailhouse informants, overturning Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto. The legislation is meant to keep innocent people out of jail.
Criminal justice group The Innocence Project calls it a major step in reversing Illinois’ pattern of wrongful convictions. It says 17 innocent people went to prison based on the testimony of jailhouse informants.
Spokeswoman Michelle Feldman says those kinds of witnesses usually can’t be trusted.
“We’re really talking about the most unreliable kinds of witnesses," she said. "It’s people who are incarcerated, who are looking for a deal, whether it’s leniency or some other kind of benefit.”
John Hanlon directs The Illinois Innocence Project, which has gotten 11 people out of prison. He says jailhouse informants have long been controversial.
“I like the fact that we will now get to find out more about a jailhouse snitch," he explained. "We get to find out if they do this as a matter of practice, if they’ve done this before.”
The measure requires a reliability hearing for jailhouse informants in cases involving murder, sexual assault, or arson. Prosecutors will have to disclose such a witness at least 30 days before a trial.
n his veto message, Governor Rauner said prosecutors should “not be further hindered” in going after serious crimes.