Don’t you hate when a person whom you regard as repugnant makes a good point? Something that you cannot deny, lest you come off as a hypocrite? That’s what happened a couple days ago when our illustrious leader, President Donald J. Trump, said that “flipping” should be illegal.
Now, let’s be real, everyone with an ounce of clear thinking knows that Mr Trump only said this because it works in his favor at the moment. He’s trying to discredit those who have made open statements about his alleged illegal activity. We all know that the only thing important in Mr Trump’s life is Mr Trump. So while Mr Trump’s motivation here is highly questionable, his point is still a good one. He may be a hypocrite… not to mention a loathsome liar… but I try not to be. I have some level of moral conviction that keeps me looking at things as objectively as possible.
“Flipping”, or as I and many others call it, “(jailhouse) snitching”, is the act of informing and/or testifying for the prosecution of facts relating to the prosecution and conviction of someone else for their own personal gain and value. Said value often takes the form of a reduced sentences or charges, better conditions, and sometimes no charges being filed at all.
Trump’s statement puts me in a serious quandary. I have long railed against jailhouse snitching. According to the Innocence Project, “…15% of wrongful conviction cases overturned through DNA testing, statements from people with incentives to testify — particularly incentives that are not disclosed to the jury — were critical evidence used to convict an innocent person.” Who in their right mind would believe a probable criminal when you know their motivation is to improve their own situation?
Alexandra Natapoff’s book, Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice, is an excellent and well-researched source on the subject, for those who want to delve into this topic more deeply and find out how insidious it actually is.
On the one hand, I abhor snitching in the criminal justice system. To me, these people are the absolutely least credible witnesses. To the point that, should I ever find myself on a jury for a criminal trial in the future, I will most likely dismiss out-of-hand any testimony by a jailhouse snitch. It would be dead on arrival to my ears.
On the other hand, it often does seem to work rather well, actually, in white collar crime cases. ‘Seems to’ should be the key concept here. Which, of course, brings me to my dilemma. As a simple concept, Mr Trump made a good point. His comment, and recognizing the contradiction, is also causing me to think more deeply about my conviction regarding jailhouse snitches, in general. Why would a white collar criminal be any more trustworthy or credible than a violent criminal? There does seem to be a difference in results, but is there really? The motivation, or incentive, to lie is still the same either way. I guess white collar crime doesn’t get the after-the-fact scrutiny that violent crime does, you don’t read about white collar exonerations much, so it’s hard to say.