Grand Jury To Probe Controversial Death of Police Informant

23 year-old Rachel Hoffman was killed during a sting operation.

ByABC News
June 11, 2008, 3:44 PM

June 11, 2008 — -- A grand jury is being convened that will investigate the controversial death of a 23-year-old Florida woman who was killed while acting as a confidential police informant in a sting operation last month.

Lawyers for the state and for the two men facing possible murder charges will be allowed to submit questions for potential jurors to the judge, but will not get to question them directly before they are sworn in Wednesday.

The panel is expected to look into the case of Rachel Hoffman, whom Tallahassee city police recruited to work as a confidential informant in April after raiding her house and reportedly finding marijuana and ecstasy.

The police have said they offered Hoffman a deal: if she worked as a confidential informant, the state attorney would "decide how to balance your assistance with your crime."

But State Attorney Willie Meggs has said his office was not informed of the deal, and it was inappropriate for police to offer such an arrangement without a prosecuting attorney involved.

Lance Block, an attorney hired by Hoffman's father after his daughter's death, said flatly he doesn't believe the deal went down the way the police have described. According to friends of Hoffman's in whom she confided, Block said, police told her she faced as much as four years in prison if she did not accept the offer.

"They told her 'it will all go away,' if you help us get some bad guys off the street," Block said.

The Tallahassee police did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Drug court officials have criticized the police's use of Hoffman as an informant. At the time they searched her house, Hoffman was in a court-ordered drug treatment program after police found 26 grams of marijuana in her car.

"It is my strong preference that the people who are in drug court not be around this kind of thing," state prosecutor Owen McCaul told the Tallahassee Democrat. And a local public defender told the paper there was an "informal practice" that people in drug court don't act as informants, "the thinking being that someone in drug court is trying to get away from drug activity and drug use."