Meet Paul Skalnik, probably the most prolific jailhouse informants in American historical past
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Meet Paul Skalnik, probably the most prolific…
By Debra Cassens Weiss
December 6, 2019, 12:15 pm CST
Picture from Shutterstock.com.
Paul Skalnik discovered about the advantages of being a jailhouse informant when he was within the Harris County Jail in Texas in 1978 for passing unhealthy checks.
Skalnik had drained his spouse’s checking account, used her good credit score to purchase a Lincoln Continental and a personalized Dodge van, and opened bank cards in her identify, in response to a New York Instances Journal investigation with ProPublica.
Skalnik was in jail when police started asking inmates for data on the “Moody Park Three,” anti-police-brutality activists who have been charged with inciting a riot. Skalnik referred to as the DA’s workplace and mentioned he may assist.
In court docket, Skalnik instructed jurors that one of many defendants had confessed to him in jail that his plan all alongside was to “incite the Mexican American children.” The defendant and his two co-defendants have been convicted.
Skalnik quickly discovered how his data would profit him in Florida, the place he had been convicted of grand larceny and sentenced for violating probation. Prosecutors really useful he that Skalnik be moved from jail to work launch.
Since then, Skalnik’s testimony helped ship dozens of individuals to jail, together with 4 on demise row, in response to the article. In Pinellas County, Florida, alone, Skalnik testified or equipped data in not less than 37 instances from 1981 to 1987.
One defendant, James Dailey, stays on Florida’s demise row at age 73 for against the law he allegedly dedicated at age 38. No bodily or forensic proof linked him to the homicide of a 14-year-old, and there was no motive. His roommate, who was additionally convicted within the crime, had pinned the blame on Dailey however refused to testify at his trial. Skalnik’s testimony a few jailhouse confession led to Dailey’s conviction.
Skalnik turned expert “at offering the form of incendiary particulars that introduced a defendant’s guilt into sudden, horrible focus,” in response to the Dec. four story.
“The confessions he recounted have been lurid and dramatic, strewn with provocative particulars that prosecutors used not simply to point out the guilt of the defendants but additionally to ascertain that they have been diabolically evil,” the article reported. “Skalnik instructed of victims’ begging for his or her lives and of remorseless killers who laughed after their slaughters, boasting that they’d outsmarted prosecutors and the police.”
Skalnik turned on Pinellas County prosecutors in 1988 after they have been reluctant to approve a lenient plea deal in one other case towards him. Skalnik filed a movement alleging that he had been coached on learn how to testify to present the misunderstanding that he “had really heard all these ‘confessions.’ ” He accused 11 prosecutors of misconduct. Prosecutors denied the allegations whereas claiming that his earlier testimony was credible and sometimes independently substantiated.
Skalnik withdrew the movement and acquired a five-year sentence, to be served in Texas. Texas didn’t agree, nonetheless, and he didn’t do the time. He later served time for sexually assaulting a minor and posed as a lawyer in Massachusetts and Texas.
Jailhouse informants like Skalnik can honestly testify that they have been promised nothing for his or her testimony. However the informants are conscious that there shall be advantages afterward, the article explains.
Jailhouse informants’ testimony may be unreliable, in response to statistics and a 2004 examine cited within the article. Jailhouse informants performed a job in practically one in 5 instances by which individuals have been convicted after which exonerated by DNA. Twenty-two p.c of death-row exonerations have been in instances counting on jailhouse informants.
Some states, together with Florida and Texas, try to open up the method. In Texas, prosecutors should maintain monitor of and disclose the earlier instances by which jailhouse informants have testified, the advantages they acquired and their legal information. In Florida, the state supreme court docket modified procedural guidelines to require the disclosure of informants who shall be testifying towards defendants and the offers that they’ve been supplied.
Connecticut has gone additional in enacting a statewide monitoring system for jailhouse informants that paperwork instances by which they testified and the advantages that they acquired.
Hat tip to How Interesting.