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How We Can Keep Innocent People Out of Prison in Missouri

Missouri is in the midst of an important criminal legal system reform with the introduction of SB489, also known as the Informant Reliability Act. This act aims to increase fairness and transparency in the criminal justice system by preventing wrongful convictions based on false testimony.

One of the main issues with the criminal justice system is that prosecutors often rely on testimony from informants — individuals who are currently incarcerated or are facing incarceration, and who provide testimony in exchange for various benefits. Unfortunately, this can lead to false accusations and perjury. In fact, 60% of all exonerations involve false informant testimony.

To help prevent wrongful convictions, the Informant Reliability Act proposes several key changes to the criminal justice system. One of the main changes is the creation of a state-wide centralized record system that tracks the use of informant testimony and the benefits offered to each informant by the state. This would help ensure transparency and accountability in the system.

The bill also requires pretrial reliability hearings in all felony cases that use informant testimony upon request from the defendant. These hearings would determine the reliability of the informant's testimony, and unless the prosecution can show that the informant is reliable, the testimony cannot be used.

Furthermore, the Informant Reliability Act aims to promote fairness by providing jury instructions if informant testimony is admitted into evidence at trial. Additionally, victims would be notified if an informant receives leniency related to a pending charge, conviction, or sentence for a crime in connection with offering or providing testimony against a suspect or defendant.

The Informant Reliability Act has garnered support from a diverse coalition of organizations and advocates in Missouri, including the Midwest Innocence Project, Missouri Prison Reform, and the Organization for Black Struggle. These groups have come together to form the #MoInnocence campaign, which seeks to address the broader issues of wrongful convictions and systemic incarceration of innocent people.


ML Smith, a leader of our Empathy Network in Missouri and is a key advocate for the Informant Reliability Act. She has personally experienced the injustices of the criminal justice system and has been working to raise awareness about wrongful convictions and advocate for legislative reforms.

ML’s advocacy work is part of a larger effort to address systemic issues that lead to wrongful convictions and mass incarceration. The Informant Reliability Act and the #MoInnocence campaign represents an important step forward in criminal legal system reform in Missouri. By addressing the specific problem of false informant testimony, this legislation aims to prevent wrongful convictions and ensure a fair and just legal system.

Overall, the Informant Reliability Act is a critical step forward in the fight for criminal legal system reform in Missouri. With the support of organizations and advocates like ML Smith, we can hope to see more progress towards a more equitable society.

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