cover image Snitch: Informers, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice

Snitch: Informers, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice

Ethan Brown, . . Public Affairs, $25.95 (273pp) ISBN 978-1-58648-492-7

Brown (Queens Reigns Supreme ) presents the case that harsh minimum sentencing laws have led federal prosecutors to rely too much on unreliable informants and cooperators, and too little on solid investigative work; the sentences are also, he argues, feeding the “anti-snitch” movement. Brown correctly notes that long minimum sentences give defendants greater incentive to lie in exchange for a reduced sentence, and he relates anecdotes about deals with unsavory criminals. But these cases don't provide any analysis of whether such arrangements are really antithetical to justice and corrupt the system. For instance, in discussing the agreement struck with unrepentant Mafia turncoat Sammy Gravano, the author doesn't assess the possibility that such plea bargains with mob leaders have contributed to the decline of traditional organized crime. Further, the author's critique of pre-emptive indictments in alleged terrorist plots based on informers could have given more weight to the legitimate fears that waiting too long to stop such a plot may be too risky. The serious issues raised by the federal government's reliance on informants and cooperative witnesses merit a more thorough and nuanced analysis than Brown provides. (Dec.)