The San Jose Mercury News shared a stunning revelation last Sunday when it ran a story about an ex-jailer from the Santa Clara county jail who says he “routinely” planted jailhouse informants in cells with inmates awaiting trial in order to actively extract information that could be used against them. He insists that he did so for about a decade at the behest of police and prosecutors.
Tracey Kaplan reports:
The remarks by retired Lt. Frank Dixon in a sworn declaration he gave in an appellate case, as well as an interview with this newspaper, appear to be a rare admission of what defendants have long insisted is a common civil rights violation by law enforcement.
Under a 1986 Supreme Court ruling, the government may plant jailhouse informants only as “silent listening posts” who cannot deliberately elicit incriminating information from the accused.
Dixon’s declaration surfaced in the appeal of Surinder Bains’ murder conviction in the 1990 killing of his brother-in-law. Bains’ lawyer contends that jail personnel housed the informant who testified against Bains in the same unit at the behest of the prosecution team to dig up incriminating information.
The news comes hot on the heels of an ongoing scandal in Orange County involving a snitch network in which inmates who were themselves alleged to have committed serious violent offenses were receiving leniency and material benefits from the state in exchange for information about defendants awaiting trial, information that was often secured through threats and coercion.
The Riverside County DA’s office has also received its share of publicity in recent weeks following an oral argument at the 9th Circuit in which Chief Judge Alex Kozinski suggested one of its prosecutors ought to be tried for perjury and threatened to name state officials in an opinion that would “not be pretty.”