Witness Intimidation Is on the Rise Lawmakers Review Protection Program

Article excerpt

Intimidation and murder of crime witnesses are increasing along with drug-related violence, lawmakers said Thursday as they held a hearing to review witness protection programs.

Rep. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, said intimidation of witnesses has "exploded like a bloody supernova."

"It threatens the integrity of our criminal justice system," he said. "When thugs control the courthouse, they control the law; they control the streets."

In a recent case in Washington, police said, nine people were murdered by a drug gang apparently because they might be witnesses.

Thirty to 35 percent of murder cases in Washington cannot be successfully prosecuted because of witnesses' fear of cooperating, said J. Ramsey Johnson, an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington.

Testifying at the hearing were Dorethia Pugh of Fort Washington, Md., and a woman from New York City identified only as Jane Doe. Both of them have testified in murder cases and had to move after they were threatened.

"When I go outside, I get scared . . . . Where I'm living now, nobody knows me," said Jane Doe, wearing a flowered kerchief around her head and large sunglasses to hide most of her face. …

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