Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Allen: Keep Strong Witness Tampering Rules

Troubled by legislative efforts to weaken witness tampering rules adopted by the New Jersey Supreme Court, New Jersey State Senator Diane Allen (R- Burlington/Camden) says she will work to nullify the proposed changes.
"The New Jersey Supreme Court adopted witness tampering rules that match those used by the federal judiciary and more than 20 states," said Senator Allen. "Reports show that witness tampering is a serious, and growing, problem for New Jersey prosecutors. Defendants must not be rewarded in any case- criminal or civil- for any effort to make a witness against them unavailable. I am specifically concerned about gang related offenses, which we know are an increasing threat to the safety of New Jersey residents. My amendment will nullify the proposed changes to these rules and preserve the right of prosecutors to submit out of court testimony from witnesses who have been proven victims of intimidation by the accused."
State crime statistics show that gang membership and/or activity exists in every county and nearly half of municipalities.
In State (of NJ) v. Byrd, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that witness intimidation is preventing the prosecution of serious crimes, including homicide, in some parts of New Jersey. A 2007 report by The New York Times cited severe problems encountered by the New Jersey State Police's gang unit in lining up civilian witnesses to testify due to fear of intimidation ("Building Cases Without Witnesses", NYT, 11/19/2007).
"I have to ask those attempting to change the court's rules what they know that the rest of America does not," Allen continued. "The proposed resolution rewards criminals for threatening those who could provide evidence against them at trial. That is inexcusable, and should in no way be condoned or tolerated in New Jersey."

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