Criminal Justice

Jailhouse Lawyer Testifies Against Inmate He Once Agreed to Help


A one-time jailhouse lawyer didn’t feel compelled to keep the secrets of his “client” when he testified at the accused murderer’s trial in California on Thursday.

John Pratt told jurors that the defendant, Steven Arthur Duarte, “appeared to be a decent guy and wrongly accused” when he first met him at the Sacramento jail, the Sacramento Bee reports. Pratt had helped other inmates while in prison, and he agreed to become Duarte’s cellmate so they could discuss the case.

But Duarte didn’t confine his discussions to legal concepts. Pratt told the Sacramento Bee that Duarte would get drunk on alcohol he made from hoarded oranges, and then would talk about the murder in sessions full of boasting and crying. Pratt testified about the alleged jailhouse confessions in court, saying Duarte spoke of the slayings “countless times.”

Duarte is accused of killing a woman because he thought she had given him the virus that causes AIDS. The defense has suggested during cross-examination that someone else committed the crime.

Pratt said in court he received no deals to testify. When he met Duarte, Pratt testified, he was in jail for failing a drug treatment program while on probation. He told the Sacramento Bee outside the courtroom he began to respect the victim when he learned she had been sober for more than a year when she was killed.

“After a couple months of being in there with him, and I learned about her, I adopted her,” Pratt told the newspaper. “She’s my poster child. She did what I couldn’t do. She was clean when he killed her and I couldn’t stay clean for 10 minutes. She gave me the courage to quit.”

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