15 Inmates Freed Due to Drug Informant's Lies
A federal judge in Cleveland has ordered 15 inmates released from long prison terms and more may be coming, due to an DEA informant's lies.
Collectively, the men have served at least 30 years behind bars. They were sentenced to a combined 86 years. Federal public defender Dennis Terez called the release of so many people at one time unprecedented.
Fallout from the case is expected to spread beyond the federal courthouses in Cleveland and Akron, where the men were convicted of dealing crack cocaine in Mansfield.
Uncorroborated snitch testimony is inherently unreliable and our system has depended on it for far too long.
The case is a blow to the federal justice system, which relies heavily on informant-based testimony, lawyers said. The men, some with no prior run-ins with the law, were given long prison sentences based almost exclusively on the word of informant Jerrell Bray and Lee Lucas, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who supervised Bray.
An investigation is ongoing into the conduct of the DEA Agent Lee Lucas who supervised the informant.
Also revealing is that most of the inmates to be released pleaded guilty. Here's why. [more...]
They might have done so because of the case of Geneva France, a mother of three with no record. She steadfastly proclaimed her innocence and refused plea bargains that would have sent her to prison for up to four years. France went to trial but was convicted based on the testimony of Bray and Lucas.
France was sentenced to 10 years in prison, sending a message to the other defendants to take plea bargains or face longer prison sentences.
Our system which relies so heavily on purchased testimony from informants -- whether bought with money or promises of leniency in their own cases -- is morally bankrupt. Freedom is a precious commodity and the incentive to lie in order to satisfy the Government that it is hearing "the truth" is enormous.
The informant has been sentenced for his lies:
Bray was sentenced to 15 years in prison for perjury and civil rights violations and is working with a U.S. Justice Department task force investigating how the case unfolded.
Will the Government give him another sentencing break if he rats out the DEA Agent? Will the DEA agent, if charged, argue that Bray is not a credible witness and singing for his supper? How ironic that would be.
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