There’s an old adage that says there is honor among thieves, but if that were ever true, it is certainly not in the case of co-defendants that snitch, turn state’s evidence and testify against you.
Here in California, however, an alleged accomplice’s testimony must be corroborated by someone else not charged in the case. This is because an accomplice has strong motivation to pin the blame for a serious crime on anyone but themselves.
Why you shouldn’t count on this stipulation
Before dismissing a co-defendant’s singing like a bird to police and prosecutors as the self-interested ramblings of a desperate individual, understand that the corroboration can come from a jail-house informant. That chatty cellmate who wanted to compare cases with you could very well be the corroborating witness to your co-defendant’s testimony.
This is all because of a decision a few years ago by a state appeals court that ruled an in-custody informant can corroborate the testimony of an accomplice against a defendant. While both have very obvious reasons to lie and shift blame in a violent crime, the court ruled that it was the jury’s duty to determine credibility in each case.
What this means for you in practical terms
If you get arrested on a felony charge (or any charge, for that matter), your defense begins when they start to question you. Calmly state that you will not be answering any questions until you confer with your criminal defense attorney. Continue to assert your Constitutional rights throughout the arrest and booking process.
Once at the jail, reveal nothing about your arrest, your charges and the case itself. That will protect your rights and make it much more difficult for the prosecution to obtain their necessary corroboration.