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April 21, 2018

"Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if.... ....it means lying or making up stories"

The quote in the title of this post is a sentence that could (and likely has been) articulated in some variation by many defendants and defense lawyers.  And it reflects one reason (of many) that mandatory minimum sentences and other severe sentencing can be so worrisome: by threatening mandatory and severe sentences, the government can place even more pressure on people to flip through "lying or making up stories" to try to get "out of trouble."

The particular articulation of these concerns in this post title comes from a pair of tweets authored by President Donald J. Trump on the morning of April 21, 2018.  I am not at all optimistic that President Trump will carry his (self-serving) concerns about persons "lying or making up stories" over to his policy positions on federal criminal justice reform or to his consideration of clemency petitions.  But I am still hopeful that tweets like these may lead some of President Trump's most ardent supporters to become ever more skeptical of all forms of government, including the tools of law enforcement that are so regularly used (and sometimes abused) in the federal criminal justice system. 

And, in related news reported by the Washington Post, it appears AG Jeff Sessions has suggested that he would not stay on as Attorney Genera if his Deputy AG were let go by Prez Trump:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told the White House he might have to leave his job if President Trump fired his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Sessions made his position known in a phone call to White House counsel Donald McGahn last weekend, as Trump’s fury at Rosenstein peaked after the deputy attorney general approved the FBI’s raid April 9 on the president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

April 21, 2018 at 01:16 PM | Permalink


Trump's right on the money. The problem of wrongful conviction based on incentivized informant testimony is by now well known. The use of such testimony is also so common that doing anything meaningful about it has proven unpalatable.

Posted by: John | Apr 21, 2018 6:29:35 PM

While we all know of "jailhouse informants," it does seem that investigation by indictment and cooperation has become a predominantly federal "thing," no doubt as a result of the war on drugs. It's extremely unsavory. A whole lot of federal inmates are lower-level addict drug offenders indicted in hopes that they would cooperate and provide sufficient "goods" on the high-profile defendants that never seem to materialize.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Apr 21, 2018 7:38:16 PM

I wish Sessions would save time and just resign on his own. From his anti-marijuana stance to his premature recusal, he is a true disgrace. It is hard for anyone to imagine who might be a poorer, more inept, more impotent Attorney General.

Posted by: restless94110 | Apr 21, 2018 11:25:33 PM

Problems with the use of informants has been documented for decades, including with wrongful convictions of capital defendants. But the right has never cared because it might cut prosecutorial power.

This is Trump again being self serving and will lead to no reform. He's fine with turning the criminal justice system against the poor and immigrants - he just hates it when he experiences what he's giving to others.

Posted by: Paul | Apr 22, 2018 7:04:07 PM

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