Colorado’s witness protection program began with a killer who thought blood could cover his tracks. Jailed and worried about a conviction for a 1988 robbery-kidnapping, Roger “Roy” Young sent his brother to kill the only witness. Then, charged with that murder, Young arranged for the death of the prosecution’s star: his own wife. Young’s witness-killing spree led lawmakers to create the state witness protection program in 1995, reports the Rocky Mountain News. But unlike the comprehensive federal protection program, the state’s effort has been under-funded and under-used, with an annual budget of around $50,000 a year and a lack of outreach that came under fire after the 2005 killings of a witness and his fiancee.
“There’s a misunderstanding about what can and can’t be done,” said Ted Tow, executive director of the District Attorneys Council and one of the three members of the witness protection board, along with representatives from the Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s Office. “We’re not a federal witness protection system. We have nowhere near the funding. We don’t have the ability to create new identifications for people.” Board Executive Director Jeanne Smith said the words “witness protection” create an expectation of a service that doesn’t exist. “Emergency witness assistance” would be a more accurate description of what the state’s program does.