A few weeks ago an article in the PD detailed how a member of the Heartless Felons, who is on trial for murder, allegedly put out a $20,000 hit on a key witness against him. The witness was shot in the face, which caused three other witnesses in the case to change their minds about testifying.
This so outraged my friend Charles See that he wrote an open letter to public and elected officials, as well as members of law enforcement, deploring this situation and calling for witnesses to be protected.
“These courageous citizens who come forth as witnesses to ‘say something’ must not be abandoned by the courts, government, police agencies or their fellow citizens,” See wrote. He also stated, “Witness intimidation, assault or murder is an affront to the very foundation upon which our system of justice is founded. Those courageous citizens who come forth as witnesses must, must, must be protected and accorded every measure of support and safety that they and their family require, including relocation assistance, witness protection programs and/or personal security.”
As a society, we can’t allow the cost of protecting witnesses to deter us from doing so. Individuals who are courageous enough to be willing to testify in court deserve to be protected. How can we even begin to think otherwise? If we cede control of the streets to dangerous thugs everyone’s life is cheapened.
If funds are needed in order to establish an effective witness protection program, then, all of the institutions in the county — including the business and philanthropic communities — have to come together and fund such a program. There should be no question or hesitation about it.
We seemingly can always find money for whatever we decide is important, and there are few issues more important — in a society that upholds the rule of law — than to assure that witnesses can testify without fear of reprisals.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.