Witness intimidation pervades the Philadelphia criminal courts, increasingly extracting a heavy toll in no-show witnesses, recanted testimony, and collapsed cases, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports in the second of a series on the city’s justice system. “It’s endemic. People are frightened to death,” said District Attorney Lynne Abraham. “We’ve had witness after witness intimidated, threatened, frightened.”
The city cannot guarantee their protection. “That fear, that’s real,” said Jamie Egan, a former city prosecutor. “When people would ask me if I could guarantee their safety, I would say, ‘Unfortunately, I cannot.’ ” Abraham has fought for more money to protect and relocate witnesses. For 15 years, she has repeatedly complained, to no avail, that the city’s program was underfunded and failing to meet a crucial need. Local funding for witness relocation is a small fraction of the spending in the vaunted federal witness-protection program. Efforts to pump city money into the local program have failed year after year. As the problem has grown worse, state funding – the main source of financial help for witnesses – has nose-dived.