Several murder cases are symptomatic of a problem Cincinnati’s Hamilton County prosecutors say is growing: the number of witnesses too frightened to testify. That, they say, makes it harder for prosecutors to win convictions and easier for some violent crimes to go unpunished – and possibly jeopardizes justice, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Sometimes witnesses become so concerned about their safety they won't talk about it even though it happened right in front of them,” said prosecutor David Prem.
“It's an issue in murder cases,” veteran defense attorney Norm Aubin. “It's gotten a lot worse.” Prosecutors began using a new tactic in 2010 that allows them to withhold the names of witnesses in cases involving violent crimes after a witness to a murder was shot and killed. Now, if prosecutors are worried about the safety of a witness, they can ask for a special hearing in which a judge decides if witness names can be withheld until trial. Prem believes witness intimidation is largely a problem in cases involving violent crimes. “I think the perception is worse than the actual reality,” Prem said. Since 2004, the number of intimidation convictions has been steady. Last year, though, there were 10 convictions, the fewest in a decade.