Conviction Bonuses for Drug Informants


Reporter John Tucker has an important story in Indy Week about a ten year program whereby the Durham Police Department paid bonuses to drug informants who were able to secure convictions.

“[T]he D.A.’s office was not aware of any agreement to pay confidential informants at the completion of cases,” said Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols in an email last month to Ian Mance, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We were also not aware of, if there were any, payments to confidential informants for bonuses. If we had that information or known it existed we would have provided it to the defendant in discovery.”

As Tucker correctly reports, the fact that witnesses had a financial incentive in the outcome is clearly Brady information that should have been turned over to each defense lawyer before trial.

Roger Nichols, who is running to be elected DA, has a real problem: his defense that the Durham County DA’s office did not know about the payments is irrelevant since Kyles v. Whitley says that a prosecutor has a duty to inquire with prosecutorial agencies.

In addition, under North Carolina’s open discovery law, the state had to turn over this evidence in each case to the defense.

This story continues to highlight the overall problem in Durham of a corrupt criminal justice system that has seen two DAs removed from office.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.