Drug Trade Fuels Surge in Witness Murders

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Henry Nunn of Indianapolis paid the ultimate price for testifying in court. Nunn, 63, was killed in his home after identifying one of the men who killed his neighbor in 2012. The neighbor had been a police informant in a drug investigation. Nunn’s death is an example of what Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry calls a “significant problem” confronting the criminal justice system in Indianapolis and other cities. The drug trade is fueling a surge in killings, and street gangs are silencing those unlucky enough to see who pulled the trigger, reports the Indianapolis Star.

A lack of witness cooperation is one of the major reasons the arrest rate in Indianapolis criminal homicide cases has sunk to near 35 percent, police officials say. It’s a big part of the reason prosecutors have been forced to dismiss murder charges in at least 20 cases since 2015, a Star investigation of crime records shows. The problem is so acute that half of the people who survive gunshots refuse to answer questions about the shootings. “This is our reality,” Curry said. “They’re scared,” says Deputy Police Chief Chris Bailey. “I can understand why they would be reluctant to come forward. I really do. It’s terrible. It’s terrible for us, it’s terrible for the victims … but I get it.” The city of Indianapolis budgets no local money for witness protection. The only money available for witness protection comes from a $6,000 federal grant, not even enough to cover one night in a cheap motel room in every murder case last year. Other cities do far more. Denver spends at least $5,000 on each of its 47 witness protection cases each year.

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