Massachusetts should give more protection to victims and witnesses and more harshly punish those who try to intimidate them, says Suffolk, Ma., District Attorney Daniel Conley. The Boston Globe says Conley told a legislative hearing that
witnesses are intimidated in 90 percent of cases involving guns, gangs, and serious violence that pass through his office. He told the story of one woman who worked up the courage to testify, only to flee when she saw friends of the defendant, a gang member, sitting in the courtroom. “She cried to the victim-witness advocate from my office that she might as well just put a bull’s-eye on her back,” Conley told the Joint Committee on Public Safety, which called the hearing to explore possible legislative solutions to surging gang violence throughout the state. In Boston, police blame gang activity, in part, for an increase in homicides, to 53 so far this year.
Intimidation of victims and witnesses is “an issue that has never received the full attention it deserves and, as a result, is now one of the most prevalent and insidious problems in the criminal justice system,” said Conley one of two dozen law enforcement officials and community activists from four cities to speak at the hearing. “Make no mistake about it: Intimidation is as much a weapon in a gang member’s arsenal as a gun or a knife.” He said the state should allocate funding so the district attorney’s office can pay for emergency relocation and housing for witnesses. He called also for a law to make perjury convictions easier.