Witness Disclosure: In a recent opinion, the Florida Supreme Court held that prosecutors must disclose certain information about informant witnesses. Under the new rule, prosecutors must give the defendant the following information about such a witness:
- If the witness will testify about a statement made by the defendant, the substance of that statement;
- A summary of the witness’ criminal history;
- The time and place of the defendant’s alleged statement;
- Whether the witness is getting anything in exchange for testifying against the defendant; and
- The witness’ prior history of testifying for the prosecution in exchange for anything of value.
This new rule is important because many “jailhouse snitch” cases are proven through a witness who gets a favor from the prosecutor in exchange for their testimony. Prosecutors can offer reduced prison sentences, reduced criminal charges, and may even offer to drop criminal charges altogether in exchange for testimony against another defendant. As you can imagine, many wrongful convictions have resulted from this kind of testimony. Hopefully this new rule will help defense attorneys attack untruthful testimony offered by witnesses in exchange for favors from the prosecutors.