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             In Actual Innocence, Jim Dwyer, Peter Neufeld, and Barry Scheck examined 62 DNA exonerations secured through Cardozo Law School’s Innocence Project to ascertain what factors contributed to these miscarriages of justice.  Snitches or informants were involved in 21 percent of the cases.[1]  Jailhouse informants also played a pivotal role in the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin in Canada:  “Such testimony related to a purported confession to the murder, made by Mr. Morin to a fellow inmate at the jail, Robert Dan May.  The confession was allegedly heard by a second inmate in an adjoining cell who also testified at the trial.”[2]  Morin was later freed due to DNA testing.  Another Canadian case involved Thomas Sophonow:


            In addition to the three jailhouse informants called in the case, police had offers from nine other jailhouse informants, including Terry Arnold, who is currently the prime suspect in the killing, to testify against Sophonow.  In the end, one of the three called, Thomas Cheng, had twenty-six counts of fraud withdrawn.  While proclaiming the best of motives for his testimony, a police report from a polygraph operator, which was not disclosed to the defence, confirmed Cheng’s primary motive was to secure his liberty and have his charges dropped.  After testifying at the first and second trials, he was released and never seen again.  The Crown read in his evidence at the third trial.  The second jailhouse informant, Adrian McQuade, was a career informant, who upon his arrest as a material witness, threatened to perjure himself unless released.  He was told that if he failed to testify in accordance with a taped conversation, he would be exposed as an informant and face whatever consequences may come.  Additional records that were never disclosed to the defence but were available at the Inquiry confirmed that while McQuade offered to be placed in the cell block with Sophonow, he admitted never receiving a confession from him.  The third informant, Douglas Martin, is best described by the words of the Commissioner himself:  “[Douglas Martin] . . . is a prime example of the convincing mendacity of jailhouse informants.  He seems to have heard more confessions than many dedicated priests.”  Martin had testified as a jailhouse informant in at least nine cases in Canada and had a record for perjury.  According to the police, at the time, he appeared to be a credible witness.[3]

                [1]  Jim Dwyer et al., Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted 246 (2000).  See also John M. Broder, Starting Over, 24 Years After a Wrongful Conviction, N.Y. Times, June 21, 2004, at A14 (“Mr. Goldstein was able to establish conclusively that Mr. Fink, a habitual criminal, heroin addict and serial liar, had fabricated his account of Mr. Goldstein’s confession to him when they were together briefly in a Long Beach police holding pen.”).

                [2]  Steven Skurka, A Canadian Perspective on the Role of Cooperators and Informants, 23 Cardozo L. Rev. 759, 761 (2002).

                [3]  Richard J. Wolson & Aaron M. London, The Structure, Operation, and Impact of Wrongful Conviction Inquires: The Sophonow Inquiry as an Example of the Canadian Experience, 52 Drake L. Rev. 677, 682 (2004) (discussing Manitoba Justice, The Inquiry Regarding Thomas Sophonow (2001)).