In certain kinds of criminal cases, especially in criminal proceedings related to drug crimes, the police and federal law enforcement agents sometimes have to take creative steps to gather enough evidence for a conviction. Especially when federal agencies look into drug issues, they may work with informants to build a case.
Sometimes, they find a jailhouse informant who will talk about what someone else said while in state custody for special consideration at their next parole hearing or their own sentencing hearing. Other times, the state works with confidential informants who may provide information to avoid prosecution or even for compensation.
The use of confidential or jailhouse informants has lead to many criminal convictions. However, there is growing evidence that incentivized informants undermine the legitimacy of criminal proceedings in their desire to connect with lesser penalties for their own infractions.
The problem with using a criminal to convict another person
Researchers looking into this complicated issue claim that 15% of wrongful convictions overturned due to genetic evidence had an incentivized informant involved in the prosecution. Many times, their testimony was a crucial factor that lead to the conviction of the defendant.
Someone with a history that includes multiple criminal charges and arrests already knows the result of another conviction or could feel desperate to regain their freedom. Those motivated by fear of incarceration, financial compensation or a desire for their own freedom might outright fabricate information if they believe that will lead to their release or a reduced sentence.
If you believe that an incentivized informant undermined the integrity of your trial, that could very well be a starting point for a criminal appeal. Looking into their role in your trial could be a way for you to appeal your federal conviction.