Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Witness Intimidation

In our criminal justice system, witnesses are people who meet three criteria:

  • They have observed an event or series of events. Their observation may be very limited or very extensive. A witness can also have been a participant in the event.
  • They have the ability to recall their observations. They may have made contemporaneous notes, photographs, recordings, or in some other way documented their observations to enhance their recall later.
  • They have the ability and willingness to recount their observations truthfully.

The criminal justice system functions better when witnesses' testimonies are "pure", uninfluenced by outside pressures. That's rarely the case. Even routine press coverage of an event may subtly influence a witness. For example, if press coverage offers information significantly different from the witness's recollection of what he observed, he may begin to question if he really observed what he first recounted to authorities. That's not witness intimidation.

Witness intimidation is most often associated with someone using violence, threat of violence, or some other coercive or retributive action to influence a witness. This is the type of intimidation addressed by the US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Problem Specific Guide No. 42 entitled Witness Intimidation by Kelly Dedel.

This 72-page guide discusses several key topics including:

  • The problem of witness intimidation
  • A general description of the problem
  • Factors contributing to witness intimidation
  • Understanding your local problem of witness intimidation
  • Responses to the problem of witness intimidation (what works, what doesn't work)