Law enforcement officials in and near Mansfield, Ohio, are involved in a nightmare — one that they helped create for more than two dozen innocent people. Some of them have spent time in prison for crimes they did not commit.
In 2005, police enlisted small-time drug dealer Jerrell Bray as an informant. Based in part on his tips, they arrested 26 people, charging them with drug offenses. Bray’s testimony was important in convicting some of them, including a Mansfield mother who spent 16 months in prison.
She and most of those arrested as a result of Bray’s tips have been released from custody. In turns out that Bray was lying, setting people up for police even if they had nothing to do with illegal drugs. Bray now is serving 15 years in prison for his deceptions.
Drug informants often are critical in bringing pushers to justice. But, not infrequently, police find that informants — usually drug users and/or dealers themselves — are lying in order to keep themselves out on the streets and out of jail.
Clearly, the authorities involved in the Mansfield arrests and convictions did not demonstrate the proper amount of skepticism regarding Bray. Their failure should serve as a lesson to other law officers who use drug informants.