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Secret Sources of Information Can Taint a Criminal Prosecution

Indiana criminal defense attorneys can’t take at face value prosecution claims and evidence supposedly found during an investigation. They have to be verified for their accuracy, that they’re genuine and the source of the evidence or claim is legitimate. We need to know whether evidence has been fabricated or obtained illegally and whether evidence pointing to another suspect has been ignored. If so, it may result in charges being dropped by the prosecution or a jury finding of not guilty.

Much of this depends on relying on prosecutors to act in good faith and honesty, but unfortunately that’s not always true. Human Rights Watch accuses the federal government of secretly supplying evidence to local police and prosecutors to help them make arrests and prosecutions. Local law enforcement then covers up the help and invents alternate stories to explain why an arrest was made. This type of behavior strikes at the heart of our criminal justice system. Illegally obtained evidence shouldn’t be used by the prosecution, because it deprives a criminal defendant of his or her right to a fair trial.

A report by the organization released in January claims this goes on regularly. They document the use of false explanations for how evidence was found, known as “parallel construction.” This may stop courts from scrutinizing the legality of questionable investigative methods, including surveillance, and allow the use of evidence that should be barred.

Human Rights Watch reviewed records of 95 federal and state criminal cases and analyses of executive branch documents. They interviewed 24 defense attorneys and current and former U.S. officials about the alleged deliberate concealment of investigative methods used by law enforcement.

The most widely known illegal practice is called a “wall stop” or “whisper stop.” A federal law enforcement or intelligence agency, possibly using information obtained by different kinds of surveillance, asks state or local police to come up with a false reason to stop a vehicle, such as a minor traffic violation, then come up with a reason to search the vehicle in hopes of finding incriminating evidence.

The Special Operations Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration is accused of possibly passing tips to local law enforcement entities, which then cover up the source of the tip to prevent it from being revealed in court. These acts could prevent many people facing drug-related charges from getting a fair trial.

The sources of the information could be warrantless surveillance authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Presidential Executive Order 12333. They allow the federal government to sweep up massive amounts of data on those outside and inside the country.

If a criminal defense attorney tries to learn whether this kind of concealment happened in a case, there is stiff opposition from prosecutors. Being unable to compel prosecutors to reveal original sources of information can put ir trial rights in jeopardy. Human Rights Watch states that local judges need to consider forcing prosecutors to disclose any previously unrevealed investigative methods if the circumstances of the case suggest investigation sources have been covered up.

Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law has faithfully served the people and communities of Indiana for several years in a variety of criminal defense cases and will help you create a strategy that gives you the chance for the best possible outcome. With offices in New Albany and attorneys who are licensed to serve the Kentuckiana area, we have the knowledge, experience and resources to help. To ask a question or to set up a consultation, contact us online or call us at 812.725.8224.

Attorney Steve Langdon

Attorney Steve LangdonLicensed to practice in both Indiana and Kentucky, Steve Langdon is an experienced elder law and trial attorney. In addition to his litigation and trial work, Steve’s practice includes wills, trusts, probate, Medicaid planning, guardianship, powers of attorney, and advanced directive planning, including living wills and health care surrogate designations. [ Attorney Bio ]

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