Book Salon for "Snitch"

Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice by Ethan Brown

Sunday, May 19, I'll be hosting the Firedoglake Book Salon where author Ethan Brown will be discussing his new book. (5:00 PM ET)

Pick up a copy or order one from Amazon at the link above, and come join us.

My view: Snitch (cooperators') testimony is purchased testimony and inherently unreliable. It is testimony the Government purchases with promises of leniency, and freedom is a commodity far more precious than money. The incentive to lie is enormous and the practice has made our criminal justice system morally bankrupt.

About the book [More...]

Our criminal justice system favors defendants who know how to play the "5K game": criminals who are so savvy about the cooperation process that they repeatedly commit serious crimes knowing they can be sent back to the streets if they simply cooperate with prosecutors. In Snitch, investigative reporter Ethan Brown shows through a compelling series of case profiles how the sentencing guidelines for drug-related offenses, along with the 5K1.1 section, have unintentionally created a "cottage industry of cooperators," and led to fabricated evidence. The result is wrongful convictions and appallingly gruesome crimes, including the grisly murder of the Harvey family in Richmond, Virginia and the well-publicized murder of Imette St. Guillen in New York City.

This cooperator-coddling criminal justice system has ignited the infamous "Stop Snitching" movement in urban neighborhoods, deplored by everyone from the NAACP to the mayor of Boston for encouraging witness intimidation. But as Snitch shows, the movement is actually a cry against the harsh sentencing guidelines for drug-related crimes, and a call for hustlers to return to "old school" street values, like: do the crime, do the time. Combining deep knowledge of the criminal justice system with frontline true crime reporting, Snitch is a shocking and brutally troubling report about the state of American justice when it's no longer clear who are the good guys and who are the bad.

Ethan Brown writes about pop music, crime, and drug policy for publications such as Wired, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and GQ. He is the author of Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent and the Rise of the Hip-Hop Hustler. He lives in New York. (Amazon.com)

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  • Display: Sort:
    What time? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Deadalus on Thu May 08, 2008 at 12:50:50 AM EST
    Wow, sounds great.

    5pm ET (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Thu May 08, 2008 at 12:58:21 AM EST
    Thanks, I'll add that to the post.

    unless it is the mob or politicians, right? (none / 0) (#3)
    by karen for Clinton on Thu May 08, 2008 at 05:32:45 AM EST
    Who knows their dirty deeds better than their cronies?  I lived in Queens, NY where tons of regular folks knew all about mob activity for decades and everybody talked about it but nobody went to the cops and even the cops who knew didn't want to get involved.  Witness protection program wasn't working and personally disruptive.

    When some of the big dawgs were finally brought down, it was their little pawns who had made errors and started blabbing into the right ears.

    Decades of crime followed by cheers of justice.

    Snitches and Paid Experts (none / 0) (#5)
    by CoralGables on Thu May 08, 2008 at 07:54:13 AM EST
    There is a fine line that separates these two. Along with the "snitch" can we add to the list of potential dishonest witnesses with reason to lie, "paid" expert witnesses? When a witness is only on the stand because he is given a financial reason to be there, isn't their credibility in question? What it leads to is a parade of "paid experts" from all sides (finances permitting) spouting a large range of bloviation.

    Neutral court appointed expert witnesses obviously being an exception.

    interesting assertion, (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Thu May 08, 2008 at 09:58:46 AM EST
    with no actual examples to support it.

    The incentive to lie is enormous and the practice has made our criminal justice system morally bankrupt.

    certainly possible, but why aren't the witnesses charged with perjury, and the prosecutors charged with suborning perjury, when the truth comes out?

    doesn't it speak well of the criminal defense attorney who gets his/her client a good deal by having them cooperate with the state?

    i fear you maintain a double standard jeralyn, with regards to your colleagues in the criminal bar; the "good guys", who represent only the finest quality accused, and the "bad guys", who represent the lower classes of accused.

    if one of your clients could get his/her sentence reduced, by agreeing to testify for the state, would you recommend against it, because of your obvious loathing of "snitches"? wouldn't that violate your ethical requirement to zealously represent your client?

    If it wasn't for snitches and rats.... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu May 08, 2008 at 09:59:43 AM EST
    the police and prosecutors couldn't catch a cold.

    Entrapment - personal story (none / 0) (#8)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu May 08, 2008 at 07:39:14 PM EST

    I was set up by an acquaintance who was cooperating with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. I believed the lies of the narcotic agents who told me that they didn't want me, that they wanted my "friend", and that if I cooperated with the agents I would be allowed to go home.

    Instead, I was represented by a corrupt lawyer (who was featured on 60 minutes in connection with another matter - name available on request) who told me that if I pleaded guilty I would receive probation & after that, I would have no record.  My lawyer didn't explain to me that Miss. does not have deferred adjudication.  I was sentenced to five years in the Miss. state penitentiary.  The sentence was suspended, but I was put on probation for five years and only years later found out that
    it wasn't a deferred adjudication situation.

    I don't have any idea about why I was set up, but I do know that the corrupt narcotics agents and the corrupt system they operate in is immmoral and though they may have felt a "rush" by placing pistols to my head and warning me that they would "blow your mothereffing brains out" seems a little harsh for someone who was driving a car that had marijuana in it (I had been told it was paint) and whose arm was in a medical sling due to recent surgery for a separated shoulder.

    This happened more than 30 years ago and though time has blurred my memory and words have stilled my feelings, I remember the injustice of it all and feel a deep resentment that I live in a country that has a corrupt, immoral law enforcement and judicial system.