New Bill To Be Introduced That Would Make Witness Intimidation A Federal Offense
By Jenn Bernstein
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - It’s a scenario that Dorothy Johnson-Speight hears over and over from members of the group she founded, Mothers in Charge.
People know who murdered their loved one, but no one says a thing.
Dorothy’s son, 24-year-old Khaaliq Johnson, was murdered in 2001.
The same man convicted of killing him was also found guilty of murdering 19-year-old Justin Donnelly just five months before Johnson was slain.
“People didn’t come forward in July when they knew who had murdered Justin,” said Johnson. “If the witnesses had had support, and there was money available, maybe my son would still be here today.”
The District Attorney’s Office says that so far this year, they’ve relocated 145 families who’ve needed help.
Last year, they provided resources for 155 families, up from 82 the year before.
But with just $1.1 million dollars in last year’s fiscal budget for it, Leland Kent with the District Attorney’s Office says that is not enough.
“Right now, people are not coming forward because they are fearful,” said Kent, the Executive Director of Victim, Witness, and Neighborhood Services.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey is hoping federal legislation will change that. He’s introducing a Senate bill that would make witness intimidation a federal crime and would also give competitive grants to assist local law enforcement in protecting witnesses.
“The federal government, and those who representing the federal government, need to play a role in this,” said Senator Casey.
It’s an effort other city leaders applaud.
“We want people to come forward, we want people to feel secure and safe,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
“I’m hopeful that this legislation — and this funding that would go with it — is successful,” agreed Mayor Michael Nutter.
Senator Casey plans to introduce the legislation when the Senate is back in session.