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Family of Chad MacDonald, Murdered Teen Informant, Sues Police; California Passes Law Limiting Use of Juvenile Informants

LAW ENFORCEMENT

September-October 1998

Asserting that officers coerced Chad MacDonald into becoming an informant, which led to his murder by drug dealers, MacDonald's family filed suit against the Brea Police Department in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, California (Stuart Pfeifer, "Slain Teen Informant's Family Sues Brea Police," Orange County Register, August 15, 1998).

MacDonald, 17, was tortured and murdered March 2 by attackers who accused him of being a "snitch." The teenager had agreed to work as an informant soon after he was arrested for possession of half an ounce of methamphetamine during a traffic stop in January ("Teen Drug Informant Murdered in California," NewsBriefs, March-April 1998, p. 19).

In the suit, the MacDonald family alleges that the teenager's mother's heart condition made it difficult for her to assess the risk to her son when she signed the informant waiver; that the police failed to adequately protect the young informant, who was vulnerable because he was a drug addict; and that police falsely told MacDonald that he would probably go to jail if he did not agree to work as an informant when it was more likely he would have received mandatory drug treatment. "Children are worth more than street arrests," said Lloyd Charton, the MacDonalds' attorney.

Jeff Wertheimer, an attorney for the city of Brea, said that MacDonald was removed from the informant program shortly before he was murdered and was killed probably as a result of his involvement with drugs. "Chad MacDonald was a drug dealer. . .Drug dealers die all the time," he said.

On September 24, California Governor Pete Wilson (R) signed "Chad's Law" (A.B. 2816), which prohibits police from using anyone 12 or younger as an undercover informant. Under the new law, teenagers 13 to 17 could work as informants with the approval of their parents and a judge. The California Assembly passed the measure 70-1 on August 28 and the Senate voted 37-0 in favor of the bill on August 27 (Eric Bailey, "Law Signed Limiting Use of Youth Informants," Los Angeles Times, September 26; Stuart Pfeifer and Martin Wisckol, "Legislature OKs Limit on Informants," Orange County Register, August 29, 1998).

Attorney Lloyd Charton - 400 N. Tustin Ave., Suite 401, Santa Ana, CA 92705, Tel: (714) 953-5033, Fax: (714) 671-4424.

Attorney Jeff Wertheimer - 611 Anton Blvd., Suite 1400, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, Tel: (714) 662-4612, Fax: (714) 546-9035, E-mail: <jwertheimer@rutan.com>.