Would Police Charge Someone With Murder If They Aren’t Guilty?

Police and prosecutors aggressively investigate and prosecute murder cases in Charleston, SC.

SC prosecutors and law enforcement leadership are under intense pressure from the public, the media, the legislature, and city and county councils to solve violent crimes – in some cases, they may feel that their jobs depend on it.

Media attention keeps the pressure on law enforcement to solve murders and keeps the pressure on prosecutors to get convictions. What do they do when there are no credible leads and a murder is unsolved?

Unsolved Murders

They find someone to charge – there is no shortage of “jailhouse snitches” who are constantly telling law enforcement they have information on local murders, because they know that law enforcement is desperate to solve crimes and they know that if they can get their foot in the door as a witness they could get years shaved off their own prison sentence. This is particularly prevalent amongst federal inmates, who typically have much more of an incentive to cooperate, thanks to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

When a “jailhouse snitch” obtains information that seems credible to law enforcement, they will take that witness’ information and use it to get an arrest warrant. If that information later turns out to be less credible than they thought, law enforcement will usually double down on the allegations rather than admit they were wrong…

Insufficient Evidence

When prosecutors are preparing for trial in a murder case and realize their evidence is not as strong as they thought, surely, they take a step back, re-evaluate their case, dismiss the charges, and issue a sincere apology, right?

Not usually. Once again, the answer is the jailhouse snitch – it is no coincidence that most murder prosecutions involve one or more jailhouse snitches who testify that the defendant “confessed” to them in detail at the jail.

Once a person has been charged, there are two main ways that jailhouse informants are able to lie about a defendant, so they can get out of jail themselves:

  1. Too much information: all you have to do is talk to your cellmate or another person at the jail, tell them what you are charged with, and even tell them you didn’t do it – now, they have enough information to lie about what you said, and the prosecutor can say it was corroborated by the evidence in the case… the information you gave to the informant.
  2. Discovery materials: Any person who sees your discovery materials (like incident reports and witness statements) has enough information to lie to prosecutors with information that can be corroborated – in some jails and prisons, there are huge problems with inmates buying and selling other inmate’s discovery materials…

In most cases, courts have found that testimony of a “jailhouse snitch” is admissible, with very limited exceptions that typically involve law enforcement paying the informant. So, be careful where you leave sensitive materials.

You Can Be a Witness or a Defendant…

A common tactic in interrogations is to threaten the witness with arrest and prosecution if they do not cooperate – you can be a witness or a defendant.

Wait, they’re either a witness or a defendant already, right? I mean, if they are a defendant, why is the investigator telling them they could just be a witness? Or, if they are just a witness, why is the investigator saying they can make them a defendant?

Often, the investigator doesn’t like what the witness is telling them – it doesn’t match the investigator’s version of events. In most cases, it’s an empty threat – if there is no evidence that you committed a crime, you should stop talking to the investigator, get out of there, and call your criminal defense attorney asap.

In other cases, investigators and prosecutors will follow through with their threats when the witness does not say what they want to hear – although the charges may be dismissed later, criminal charges and a stay in jail might make the witness more cooperative.

Subornation of perjury? Obstruction of justice? I have yet to see a prosecutor or investigator admonished for these tactics, much less charged with a crime…

Charleston, SC Murder Defense Lawyer

We understand that in every murder prosecution, we are fighting for our client’s life and freedom – murder prosecutions in SC are complex cases with complex defenses, and you need a defense attorney who: 1) has experience trying murder cases in SC and 2) cares about you and your freedom.

If you or a loved one is facing homicide charges in SC, call now at (843) 808-2100 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.