Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Supreme Court Allows Jailhouse Informant to Testify

The Supreme Court allowed a jailhouse informant to testify for impeachment purposes even though the statements made were illegally obtained. Donny Ray Ventris and Rhonda Theel were charged by Kansas prosecutors with the murder of Ernest Hicks. Theel pled guilty to robbery and agreed to testify against Ventris in exchange for having the murder charges dropped against her. At trial, Ventris testified that Theel was the shooter and was solely responsible for the murder. Police had placed a confidential informant in the jail cell next to Ventris when he was in custody after the murder. Ventris had told the confidential informant that he had shot Hicks in the head, stolen his wallet and $350 and taken his car. The state used the testimony of the confidential informant to impeach Ventris. Ventris was eventually convicted of Aggravated Robbery and Aggravated Burglary. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the testimony of the confidential informant could not be used because Ventris had not been read his Miranda warnings prior to being questioned by the state's confidential informant. The United States Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that the testimony of the confidential informant could be used only for impeachment purposes. The Court ruled that the state could not use the informant's testimony in their case in chief, but only for impeachment purposes.

This was a 7 to 2 decision. The dissenting Justices were Stevens and Ginsburg.

The case is Kansas v. Ventris, 07-1356.

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