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Informant’s Testimony Has Police Arrest a Suspect in a 1984 Murder Cold Case

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flickr image by Colin Dunn

Reuters is reporting that Houston police believe they have, with the help of an informant and the DNA database, cracked a double murder case that has been cold since 1984. The case involves two sisters who were murdered while in their family home.

The Houston Police have charged Edmond Beauregard Degan, age 57, with the murders of the two sisters, Yleen and Lillie Kennedy. The sisters were stabbed and shot. Their home was also burglarized. At the time, the police did not arrest a suspect for the killings.

The informant, who is charged with unrelated crimes and faces 2-4 years if convicted, identified Degan as the assailant. Although Degan was questioned when the crime originally occurred, he was not considered a suspect at that time and the case went cold.

Now, nearly three decades later, armed with the informant’s testimony and Degan’s DNA evidence at the crime scene, police believe they have caught the perpetrator of these killings.

Using Informant Testimony Against a Defendant

But how reliable is informant testimony? Especially when the informant has held on to the information for over three decades? Could the charges he or she is now facing be the reason for fabricating such a story?

Informants are individuals who have committed a crime, been arrested, and then have tried to get a deal by revealing information that help police convict another person. However, such a statement is self-serving; the informant isn’t a good samaritan, rather he or she is a person who is interested in self-preservation. He or she exchanges information for the promise of a lighter sentence for the crimes he or she is charged with perpetrating. In the days of the mafia they were called “snitches” and referred to as a rat! The mafia code was to never snitch! There was no place in Costa Nostra for a snitch.

As such, Texas law requires that all informant testimony be corroborated by other evidence before a prosecutor can secure a conviction against a defendant. Realistic this corroboration is nothing! Most Judges will let it in if the “snitch” can establish he was in the city at the time. It is a very low standard despite the importance of the law and the original reasoning. This is because public policy believes that informant testimony, on its own, is inherently unreliable. Therefore, to avoid sending innocent people to prison, the law requires much more than he said she said. In fact, the testimony of two informants is not sufficient to meet the corroboration requirement.

In above case, the police are using the suspect’s DNA evidence, found at the crime scene, to corroborate the testimony of the informant. Is that sufficient evidence? It may not be. There may be another plausible and legal explanation for Degan’s DNA being found at the crime scene. If so, there is no true corroboration, and the testimony of the informant should not be enough to secure a conviction for these murders.

Let Our Attorneys Help You

Have you been arrested and charged with a serious crime or serious felony based on the testimony of an informant? Or have you been convicted at trial based on the uncorroborated testimony of an informant? Know your rights. Contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates and we will mount a defense or a criminal appeal on your behalf. Our attorneys have the experience to effectively manage your case. Call us today at (281) 280-0100.