NPR Story
12:57 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Use Of Confidential Informants Mostly Unregulated

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 1:35 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In May 2008, Rachel Hoffman(ph) put on a wire and went alone to buy two and a half ounces of cocaine, 1,500 ecstasy pills, and a semiautomatic handgun. Police lost track of her. Two days later her body was found, shot five times with the gun she was sent to buy.

Rachel Hoffman was not an undercover cop. The recent Florida State grad agreed to work as a confidential informant for the Tallahassee Police after her second marijuana bust. She had no training, never handled significant quantities of drugs, never fired a handgun.

In a piece in the New Yorker, Sarah Stillman tells Rachel Hoffman's story and those of several other young offenders who died in the largely unregulated world of confidential police informants. If you've been a part of this world as an informant or on the law enforcement side, how did the process work for you? 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, what the new study on the nutritional value of organic foods tells us and what it doesn't. But first, Sarah Stillman joins us from our bureau in New York. She's a contributor to The New Yorker and a visiting scholar at New York University. Good to have you with us today.

SARAH STILLMAN: Thanks for having me, Neal.

CONAN: And if we had some idea, some image of what a confidential drug enforcement - drug informant is supposed to look like from TV or the movies, Rachel Hoffman does not fit the stereotype.

STILLMAN: Absolutely. I mean I looked at a wide range of cases, and part of what was stunning was to find, you know, young people who are involved in the informant system from so many different walks of life. But Rachel Hoffman was a 23-year-old Florida State graduate, not necessarily very demographically representative of many of the people who are most impacted by these policies.

But certainly, you know, she lost her life nonetheless.

CONAN: And it turned out it was not going to be a drug purchase, it was not going to be a deal, it was going to be a robbery.

STILLMAN: Exactly, yeah. So I spoke to, you know, the family of one of the convicted murderers, who told me that essentially they'd never been planning a drug deal in the first place. What they were actually planning was to take the massive - I believe it was $13,000 that Rachel was bringing to the bust, because, you know, it was quite huge.

It was, you know, 1,500 ecstasy pills and cocaine and a handgun that she was sent to purchase.

CONAN: And they found the wire on her?

STILLMAN: Exactly. They opened up her purse, because the wire had actually been placed in her purse, which was against, you know, standard procedures there, but it had all been done in a bit of haste, and she'd been sent off with the wires in her purse. And, you know, it's a bit unclear exactly what occurred because, you know, no one was there to witness it, but the understanding was that they took her purse and found the wire, and she was shot.

CONAN: And the police, how did they lose track of her? There was aircraft involved.

STILLMAN: Exactly. Well, it was a series of really - you know, a series of both poor planning and coincidence. You know, one big issue was that it was in a very wooded area. The location was changed a number of times, and the DEA had offered a surveillance plane. But it turned out the drug deal went down in a location that was covered in this tree canopy.

I mean, I saw it. It was thick and dripping with Spanish moss and not the kind of place that a plane had any hope of seeing the transaction.

CONAN: Your piece in The New Yorker is titled "The Throwaways," and it's your contention that in fact in their eagerness to get drug busts, the police do not pay anywhere near enough attention to the safety of their informants, and to some degree, in some cases, their attitudes may be pretty cavalier.

STILLMAN: Right. I mean I think it's the nature of the work to be incredibly dangerous, and I think most police are probably quite transparent about that. But, you know, what was surprising to me was to find in some cases, you know, young people who were actually getting death threats as a result of their cooperation with the police, you know, informed their police handlers, and nevertheless were continued to be used in drug transactions.

CONAN: Continued to be - despite drug - death threats, rather.

STILLMAN: Exactly, and in one case I actually found, you know, there was a 16-year-old young man, LeBron Gather(ph) in Kentucky, who agreed to participate as an informant after he'd punched his teacher in the jaw and had wound up facing a juvenile assault charge.

So he signed on, he became an informant. He started doing drug cases. And after setting up a local dealer, he actually testified in a rather public manner and then the very next day was sent out to buy more drugs from this person he'd just testified against, who had, you know, not shockingly, gotten wind of LeBron's work as an informant and killed him.

CONAN: We want to hear from confidential informants today. We want to hear from those on the law enforcement side too, police officers. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And we'll start with Joel(ph), and Joel's on the line with us from Charlotte.

JOEL: Hey, Neal, how are you doing?

CONAN: I'm well, thanks.

JOEL: Hey yeah, I had an experience as a CI similar to hers, not quite obviously as tragic as I'm able to call you now. But I was just out of college. I'd found a way to order pharmaceuticals from Canada, which by the way you can still do quite easily. I was caught. They offered to give me seven months in prison unless I helped them. And I wasn't able to really offer them much assistance. So they offered to help me and put me in a spot where I was able to help them on a case they were already working.

And when all was said and done, and I had completed my work, nothing happened, and I was sentenced to prison for seven months. I don't know if it was the lack of accountability or poor representation, but you know, with nobody to police the police, so to speak, I did what they wanted me to do, and then that was it. And so my experience was bad.

CONAN: I can hear that. You participated in essentially a drug sting operation. Did you wear a wire?

JOEL: Exactly, yes, sir, I did.

CONAN: And were people arrested and later convicted on the basis of the evidence you gathered?

JOEL: They sure were.

CONAN: And there was nothing - there was no promise in writing or anything that...

JOEL: Nothing promised in writing, many promises in front of my attorney from, you know, the local authorities, but in the long run there was nothing I could do or say or prove, like hey, I helped these people out. I even tried to bring it up as they were sentencing me, and I was told I wasn't allowed to talk about it. So yeah, it was not a good experience for me. I was 22 at the time.

CONAN: Well, we're glad - you did serve all seven months, or did you get out a little early?

JOEL: It was a nonviolent offense. I served 99 days, and I've paid my debt to society. And it took about 10 years off of my fiscal career, but I'm back on track now, and I have a great professional job, and other than the fact that it's part of my past, I tend not to think about it. But anytime I hear that CI system brought up, it just kind of makes me chuckle because they're either going to, you know, use you and abuse or, you know, just kind of toss you to the curb, and that just doesn't seem right.

CONAN: Joel, thanks very much, we're glad you got out and glad you're getting on with your life.

JOEL: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Appreciate it. And Sarah Stillman, in your experience, he got absolutely nothing out of participating. Is that common?

STILLMAN: You know, I think what's hard is that often these deals are spelled out in back alleys and on the spot, and people don't always have an opportunity to consult with a lawyer. So I found often, you know, things aren't in writing, things aren't clearly spelled out. And I think, you know, CIs can be really valuable in working up the ranks, you know, trying to get at people who are really immersed in worlds like insider trading or whatnot, where, you know, they have good connections that they can give police.

But in this man's case who just called in, you know, we see someone who was a nonviolent offender who didn't necessarily have great ties to working up the ladder. And, you know, that was - many of the cases I looked at were small fish going after other small fish.

CONAN: Joining us now is Brian Sallee, who spent the past 20 years in law enforcement working on drug investigations. He's a police officer, president of BBS Narcotics Enforcement Training and Consulting, and joins us by phone from St. Louis, where he's actually teaching a class to police officers about informants. And thanks very much for taking time out from your teaching.

BRIAN SALLEE: You're welcome, nice to be here.

CONAN: And you're interviewed in Sarah Stillman's piece in The New Yorker, and you say there's no such thing as training an informant. So clearly you're working with officers. Don't those officers have an obligation to help train the informants that they're working with?

SALLEE: We don't call it training. We train police officers. What we do with the informants is give them directions on what they need to do. It's incumbent on the police officers to have that training. It's very important that they do receive training in what to do and then use that and direct the informants and tell them this is what you need to do, without doing a training.

So they'll tell them exactly what needs to be done in the investigation, what actions are expected of them.

CONAN: But obviously police officers have a lot of training. Couldn't this work be done by undercover officers?

SALLEE: In some it could, but in a lot of places that I'm teaching, with small departments, they don't have the resources, or the officers are all known in a small community. So they are dependent on informants, versus the department I worked, was a large city, so it was easier. But with small departments, oftentimes they can't work undercovers.

CONAN: So confidential informants are a force multiplier in a way?

SALLEE: Yes, they are, and they are a great asset in the investigation of narcotics work.

CONAN: And I'm sure you've read Sarah Stillman's piece since it came out in The New Yorker. These cases - and you're not involved in them, let me put it that way - but these cases are tragic. Should there be guidelines? Should there be regulations? Should there be situations, stipulations, you don't use minors, for example, people need to have a lawyer?

SALLEE: There should be guidelines by the police, and each department in each state needs to have their guidelines, not a one-shoe-fits-all federal type regulation. There are places where they might need to use a juvenile if they have drugs being sold in a school where no law enforcement could work into, and they're selling to other kids and kids are dying. You might need to actually work a juvenile. So there might be exceptions.

But it's very important that departments have the policies and that the officers are trained in those policies.

CONAN: Sarah Stillman, is it your experience that there are established guidelines in various police departments as you looked into this, or are police making this up on the fly?

STILLMAN: Well, you know, part of why I chose to look at Rachel Hoffman's case is that her parents really fought to pursue more clear guidelines in the state of Florida that have potentially become a model for elsewhere in the country, where regulation is relatively sparse in terms of some of the issues Brian just brought up. I mean the use of juveniles is one good example.

Another example is, you know, what about people who are in drug treatment programs? Should they be able to be taken out of those and used as informants? And you know, also one of the things I found was surprising to me is that there aren't always clear guidelines about the cases in which CIs are used and whether or not those cases are commensurate with the crimes they've allegedly committed.

So for instance, you're caught with a handful of ecstasy and Valium pills, and you're sent off to buy, you know, 1,500 ecstasy pills.

CONAN: Brian Sallee, I wonder, what questions do your trainees have for you?

SALLEE: They like to know what they can do to protect their informants, to keep them confidential. So a lot of our work is, and the training is, how to set up policies, how to set up investigations to do things in the safest manner and also to do an investigation in such a way that we can keep our informants confidential, because we prefer that they always stay confidential.

CONAN: We're talking about confidential police informants. In a few minutes - Sarah Stillman mentioned regulations, indeed a law in Florida - we'll talk with one of the people who pushed for that regulation. If you've been part of this world as an informant or on the law enforcement side, how did the process work out? 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan, it's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. In The New Yorker, Sarah Stillman wrote: Informants are the foot soldiers in the government's war on drugs. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of all drug cases in America involve them, often in active roles.

For police departments facing budget woes, untrained CIs provide an inexpensive way to outsource the work of undercover officers. The system makes it cheap and easy to use informants as opposed to other less risky but more cumbersome approaches, says Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a leading expert on informants.

There are fewer procedures in place and fewer institutional checks on their use. Often deploying informants involves no paperwork and no institutional oversight, let alone lawyers, judges or public scrutiny, and their use is necessarily shrouded in secrecy.

We want to hear from those of you who've been in the system as CIs or on the law enforcement side, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Our guest: Sarah Stillman, who wrote that piece I just referenced, "The Throwaways," for the September 3 edition of the New Yorker. There's a link to that piece on our website. Go to npr.org.

And Brian Sallee, a police officer and president of BBS Narcotics Enforcement Training and Consulting. He stepped out of a training class he's teaching to talk with us. And let's see if we can go next to - this is Chad(ph), and Chad's on the line with us from Nashville.

CHAD: Hi.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

CHAD: Well, I'm a public defender, and I just - I've been listening to the comments, and I can say from, you know, from my own personal experience that seeing it on my end, after my clients have been charged, and I get, you know, I get told, you know, past clients, you know, have told me, you know, I've done this work, I've helped out the police, I didn't think I was going to be charged, or they told me they would protect me, et cetera; once I talk to the police officers that are allegedly involved in this, and like you said, there's no paperwork, there's no anything, oftentimes what I find is basically minimizing of what they actually did for the police. All of a sudden they weren't that big of a help. We had all - you know, we had a lot of other stuff, they didn't really help us that much. We never told them anything.

I mean, it's just - I find a lot of them going into this with no protection up front. They don't contact lawyers up front. And like I tell my clients, and what I try to always tell them, you know, future and prospective or past clients, that they just aren't your friend. They aren't going to help you. There aren't going to - you know, they'll tell you everything in the world, they'll promise you everything, and in the end they're just going to - they're going to screw you over.

I mean that's - in the end, that's what I see. I mean I'm sure it works every now and again, but by and large, I just see it causing more problems and hurting them more in the end than it's ever going to help.

CONAN: Brian Sallee, is there a system by which officers can keep the promises they make to their CIs?

SALLEE: Yes, that's one thing that I stress in our training, is that you need to keep either written or verbal promises. Your integrity and your reputation becomes known within the drug trade. So if you're promising something: one, you need to have the ability to carry through with the promise; and two, if the person does what you agreed on, then hold true to the promise.

CONAN: Sarah Stillman, in your experience looking into cases, are promises kept?

STILLMAN: You know, one of the cases I wrote about was a young woman in Detroit, Shelly Hilliard(ph). She was a teenager. She was found with 28 grams or something like that of pot, less than an ounce, and she was, you know, promised that if she partook in a drug bust that she would essentially be protected and that, you know, she wouldn't have to go to prison.

And her confidentiality was ultimately compromised by the police, as it came out in testimony in court. That was an allegation of a woman who'd been present who said the police had actually revealed Shelly's identity. So I think Brian's point is really crucial that, you know, one of the key promises that is made is in the very title, confidential informant, the idea that it will be kept confidential.

CONAN: Chad, thanks very much for the call.

CHAD: Thank you, bye.

CONAN: And let's see if we can go next to - this is Fred, Fred with us from Ypsilanti.

FRED: Yes, I'd like to play devil's advocate just for a minute. I know something about the crack world because I had a woman I loved who was dragged into it, and trying to get her out of them, I met a - an Ypsilanti undercover officer, although he was just in plain clothes, he wasn't trying to infiltrate(ph) or anything. And we had many discussions in the (unintelligible) VFW.

Anyway, my experience, and he agreed, was that a lot of CIs manipulate the police as much as the police manipulate them. They are over and over again, they're just - they pretend they don't know them. They go back in the industry. They stay in that terrible world that's sexual slavery. They stay (unintelligible) very big-time dealers, and they throw the police either smalltime people that they are irritated with or competition.

CONAN: Brian Sallee, is that your experience, that sometimes it can go the other way?

SALLEE: With inexperienced officers it can. And so it's important that the police have the training and understand what they can and can't do and how to do and handle and manage an informant. We were just talking this morning that no matter what, as a police officer, we're usually behind the knowledge curve of the informant.

I've been in narcotics for 23 years, but I didn't get into that trade until I was an adult and started working narcotics investigations. Some of these people have been involved in that trade since a young age and are very, very knowledgeable and know how to manipulate. So it's important that the officers understand that and make sure they're following proper procedures.

CONAN: And Fred, in your experience, these manipulators, what do they get out of it? I mean, presumably they're still facing - go ahead.

FRED: No, they get - nothing. They get to stay in the industry. They get to be there and in fact be involved in arrests, and the police let them go. They're not charged, even though they are actively involved. They're still making money at it and stuff. They get to not face the penalties of their crime and get to stay - as I say, actually get rid of some competition by tossing those names to the police or just get rid of people who are like at the - you know, the bottom, while they're hiding, you know, behind other trees.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. And Sarah Stillman, I guess you're almost hearing Whitey Bolger there. I mean, this is a case where clearly an FBI informant went way off the rails, and so did the FBI.

STILLMAN: Absolutely. I mean, I think the caller makes a really important point because I think the use of CIs can also really incentivize false testimony, testimony that results in wrongful convictions. You're clearly giving people a real incentive to come forward with information, and in some cases that leads to big problems in the other direction.

CONAN: It's also led to social problems. You say this is very much the basis of the stop snitching campaign.

STILLMAN: Right, so in some communities where the use of the tactic is so common, there's been a really violent reaction in the opposite direction, and you see this as a theme in everywhere from music to sort of graffiti of saying, you know, people, if you snitch, we will retaliate.

CONAN: Earlier we told some of the story of Rachel Hoffman, a confidential informer in Tallahassee, in Florida, who was murdered as the result of a bungled operation. Lance Block represented Rachel Hoffman's family in a civil suit against the Tallahassee Police Department. He then lobbied for legislation known now as Rachel's Law. He joins us from member station WFSU in Tallahassee. Good to have you with us today.

LANCE BLOCK: Nice to be here.

CONAN: And I gather when you started to prepare for this case, you started to look for other legislation that you might model yours on and didn't find a lot.

BLOCK: That's correct. When Rachel's parents first hired me, the main purpose was to initiate a civil suit against the Tallahassee Police Department. But they also saw a need to reform the laws because there was no protection whatsoever in Florida for confidential informants.

And so what I did is surveyed other states, and the only state in the nation that has anything remotely akin to Rachel's law is California. And they have a provision that prohibits the use of minors under the age of 12, and then there are regulations that take place for children from 13 to 18.

CONAN: And you - is that adequate? Is that the basis of Rachel's Law? Or did you go past that?

BLOCK: Oh, we went way beyond that. As a matter of fact, law enforcement fought Rachel's law adamantly. In fact, there was one sheriff's association president who said that if Rachel's law was adopted, it would be the end of law enforcement. That hasn't happened, at least over the last three years.

But what I found is that the lack of legislation has led to policies and procedures in some law enforcement agencies. Many, there are no policies and procedures. And the Florida legislature studied this issue very carefully and determined that there could be another Rachel Hoffman out there potentially, and we didn't want to have that happen again.

And so there were several members of the legislature who worked closely with Rachel's parents and with all of the law enforcement associations. And we were able to come up with a very watered-down version of Rachel's law.

CONAN: Watered down? What was taken out?

BLOCK: Well, the three major provisions that were taken out were - you know, we discussed the minor issue, and that was taken out. We had an absolute exclusion for children under the age of 18. We heard some terrible stories about children being subjected to dangerous situations and just very seedy situations.

For example there was a 17-year-old boy in Fort Lauderdale who was found with a marijuana cigarette. He was threatened to be taken to jail unless he would go into an adult strip club and buy cocaine from a man who he didn't know. They showed him a picture, and of course he did it and was not able to find the man in the strip club, came out, told law enforcement he couldn't find the man. They put him in the back of the car and took him to jail.

The second provision that was taken out was, as Sarah mentioned, the drug treatment provision. Rachel Hoffman was in a drug court - supervised drug treatment program, and the court should have been notified about her violation of it when she was found with five ounces of marijuana. Instead, the Tallahassee Police Department had no policy and chose to ignore the court, circumvent the court order, not notify the state attorney. And within three weeks, she was murdered.

But we feel strongly - and Rachel's father, who's a mental health counselor, feels very strongly - that someone who's in a drug treatment program, the last thing they need to be doing is going out in the community, back on the streets, buying drugs or selling drugs. The whole purpose of drug treatment is to remove us, or remove people from that type of environment. And...

CONAN: And the third provision?

BLOCK: Yeah. The third provision was that anyone who was apprehended and offered a CI role would have a right to - automatically have a right to talk to a lawyer and be advised as such. And that was taken out. And...

CONAN: Let me just put that to Brian Sallee. You've mentioned earlier about minors, that sometimes you need to use minors in situations in school. They're the only people who could possibly get access to that. What about those other two provisions about using - prohibition against using people who are in a drug program, and a prohibition that - and a provision that they have to have a lawyer?

SALLEE: I agree that people in drug treatment aren't the best people. We prefer that they also get clean. And if they're under a court-ordered treatment, then they do need permission from the court. As far as a lawyer, they're advised they have a right to a lawyer. And, you know, I've never seen any of our officers, the people I've worked with - and I teach not to try to force somebody. It - let them make a rational decision.

CONAN: Sarah Stillman, in your story, you quote other officers who say, we need to do these things quickly. Sometimes the opportunity is fleeting. If we have to get a lawyer for somebody, it goes away.

STILLMAN: Right. I mean, that was certainly the argument in the case of Shelley McLane - Shelley Hilliard that I mentioned earlier in Detroit. So the question is, in those kinds of cases, are the stakes always worth it? I mean, in her case, the stakes were life or death, and it was for such a small amount of pot. So I think the question is really, you know, do those policies make sense in circumstances that have to be, you know, so rushed? Are the risks really worth it?

CONAN: We're talking about confidential informants. You just heard Sarah Stillman, a contributor to The New Yorker magazine who wrote a piece called "The Throwaways" for the September 3rd issue. Also with us is Brian Sallee, a police officer and president of BBS Narcotics Enforcement Training and Consulting. He's in St. Louis, teaching police officers about the use of confidential informants. And also with us, Lance Block, a trial lawyer and past president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

And let's get Steve on the line, Steve with us from - this is Denver.

STEVE: Hello?

CONAN: You're on the air, Steve.

STEVE: Yeah. I just wanted to call and kind of speak on the side of the police officers. I got in trouble. It was significant trouble. They made me a deal. They said if I would cooperate, they would let me go. And it was the hardest decision to do that, because I knew that the amount of trouble I was in wouldn't go very far. I wouldn't have very many penalty - penalties for it.

But when I did make the decision to help them and I did what they asked me to do, when it was all said and done, they let me go. And there's been no repercussions ever since, and I've never looked back. I would never get myself involved in that again. But it was - they gave me the choice because I wasn't prior convicted of anything else. I was clean. I just got involved in something, and they - I think they realized that, so they let me go.

CONAN: So you had a good experience.

STEVE: I had a great experience. And I would tell anybody out there, I really would tell them that if somebody presents you with that opportunity, I would take it. And it's easier to - I don't know. It's easier to trust in the police than it is other criminals, you know? You'll hear people tell you that you should never do that, but I recommend it. They give you the opportunity, I would take it.

CONAN: Thanks - were you put into a dangerous situation?

STEVE: They were scary. I don't know that they were necessarily dangerous. They were scary.

CONAN: All right. Well, glad you had a good experience and glad it worked out. Glad you were scared straight.

STEVE: Thank you. Bye.

CONAN: Let me turn back to you, Lance Block. You've mentioned this watered-down version of the law has taken effect. As far as you know, are other states beginning to look to Florida as a model?

BLOCK: Not that I know of. It's - you know, there's a lot of chatter amongst scholars in the legal community, but there really hasn't been any interest, as far as I know, in other states, trying to adopt something along the lines of Rachel's Law.

CONAN: And is there any effort in Florida to get some of those provisions that were taken out, get them back in?

BLOCK: As a matter of fact, there is. The same bill sponsors who promoted Rachel's Law to begin with back in 2009 are coming back with several of the provisions that were taken out, and I think we have a good chance of passing them.

CONAN: And I wanted to ask you, Sarah Stillman, as you look ahead to this landscape of largely unregulated use of confidential informants, what kind of reaction has there been to your piece?

STILLMAN: Well, you know, I've certainly been in touch with all of the families, and they're glad for their stories to be brought to light. It certainly made me wonder how many more stories are there out there like this, because part of what's interesting is that you find out about cases often because there are legal complaints.

So in many of the cases I looked at, families - you know, a family in Washington state, the family in Detroit, the family in Kentucky, the family in Florida, all of them were really pushing for, you know, justice through the legal system. And certainly, there are many, many more cases that we never find out about that go down on the books as sort of drug-related incidents, drug-related deaths that presumably have some ties to people's work as informants. So part of what's been interesting to me is to hear some of those stories.

CONAN: And, Brian Sallee, as you teach police officers - and I'm afraid we just have to ask you to be brief - you have to teach them of the value of these people's lives, some of whom obviously aren't saints.

SALLEE: Yes, and that's true. And while their deaths are tragic, and nobody would want those, they're - for every tragic incident, there are probably hundreds to thousands of cases that went very good in which these informants helped take major criminals off the street and make our streets much, much safer. And so it is important that we work the informants in a safe way to avoid tragic incidents like this. But they are a great and valuable tool to help us make and get criminals off the road.

CONAN: Brian Sallee, again, thanks very much for taking time out of your training class to speak with us.

Brian Sallee is the president of BBS Narcotics Enforcement Training and Consulting, and a police officer. Our thanks also to Lance Block, a trial lawyer in Florida who joined us from member station WFSU in Tallahassee. Appreciate your time. And Sarah Stillman, thank you for your time. You're a contributor to The New Yorker Magazine.

STILLMAN: Thanks.

CONAN: Up next: organic food. A lot of people who buy it think they're eating and better for it. What does science say? What doesn't it? Stay with us. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.