Claim: DA used serial snitch to get convictions

Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 21:24:57-05

The defense team for a convicted killer claims it has new evidence that prosecutors within the San Diego County District Attorney's Office used a serial snitch to get convictions in several cases, including his.

A new court filing in the Brandon Price habeas corpus case includes jail records and transcripts from several cases that show the same informant who testified against Price was helping the prosecution in several other gang-related cases. In some cases, Jarius Bush got confessions from cellmates; in others, he provided information to gang unit investigators, the document says.

Price's attorney, Gloria Collins, called the conduct "outrageous," saying, "These are people that should know better."

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Collins spent more than two decades working as a deputy district attorney. She now is on the other side of the courtroom.

She is representing Price in his effort to get a new trial in the 2001 shooting death of 16-year old Anthony Newsome after a key witness in the case said he was forced to lie.

Jarius Bush was also convicted and was sentenced to six years in prison. After testifying against Price, a different judge cut the sentence in half -- from six years to three. Collins claims in court documents the jury was never told about the benefits Bush was receiving.

Judge Jeffrey Fraser issued a ruling in 2015 that indicated he might be open to hearing the new claims. Since that time, Collins and investigator Marie Little claim they've uncovered explosive new evidence.

That evidence did not come without a price. In October, investigators from the District Attorney's Office swarmed Little's El Cajon home. The search warrant affidavit claimed there was evidence she smuggled drugs and cellphones into the jail.

She claimed she was being retaliated against for her work on the Price case.

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Little was never charged with smuggling contraband into the jails, but she did plead guilty this month to four misdemeanor counts of making unauthorized phone calls to prisoners and texting them. She is banned from entering any jail or prison in the state of California for three years.

The search of her house was reported by Team 10 and a local newspaper. After that, she began to get phone calls from people who Collins said helped her find the "needle in a haystack in a different galaxy."

Transcripts and jail records show that Bush was a serial informant, according to court documents. Bush not only testified in three other murder cases, but Collins said there is evidence that he was moved from cell to cell at the behest of members of the district attorney's gang unit to collect information.

Jail records submitted to the court show Bush was transferred to the same cell at the downtown jail as James Carter. Bush later testified Carter confessed to being involved in the murders of two women.

He testified against Darius Days and Lamar Long in another murder case. Records included in the court paperwork show Bush was placed in the same cell as Days when he was on trial for murder.

Collins also has evidence that in 2003, Bush was placed in the same cell as Jamar Phillips, who was suspected in a 1995 gang murder.

Collins claims none of the jurors in the cases were told about Bush's track record.

"You need to tell that jury the total relationship. Is he testifying in any other cases? Is he helping in any other cases? Is he getting any benefits elsewhere, because these informants are so dangerous, their credibility is so suspect the jury has to have all the information about them in order to properly assess their credibility to determine if they're telling the truth," Collins said.

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Collins said the worst part of it is that the prisoners who were awaiting trial had lawyers and shouldn't have been exposed to an informant.

"It's a systematic violation on a constitutional level of all these defendants rights," she said.

"It's not just about winning when you're a prosecutor. You have to be ethical. That is critical because if we can't trust the prosecutor, we can't trust verdicts," Collins added.

Collins wants the judge to throw out Price's conviction and order a new trial.

The district attorney wants the judge to reject the case outright. They filed a 101-page denial that there was any misconduct in the Price case, and issued this statement to Team 10:

"The allegations of misconduct made by the defense are without factual basis or legal merit. Brandon Price was given a fair trial and convicted by a jury for his role, along with other members of the Lincoln Park Murder Gang, in the murder of Anthony Newsome and the shooting of George Kassab. The prosecution acted with the highest level of professionalism and integrity throughout this prosecution and we are confident the court will agree after the actual facts are reviewed."

No hearing dates have been set in the Price case.