Thursday, January 27, 2005 - News - Glenn Ivey Fights Witness Intimidation - News - Lawmakers Try To Fight Witness Intimidation: "Lawmakers Try To Fight Witness Intimidation
Legislators Consider Several Bills

POSTED: 6:40 am EST January 26, 2005

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland lawmakers say criminals who intimidate witnesses to prevent them from testifying at trial is a serious problem and they want to do something about it.

Authorities said an entire family in Baltimore was killed when drug dealers allegedly set their home on fire.

"In particular areas of the state today, the streets are more unsafe than ever. The bad guys are controlling the streets to the extent they can intimidate the people who help put them away," said Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

He said you literally have a system run by drug dealers with guns.

Tuesday the governor, flanked by bipartisan supporters, announced a witness intimidation initiative. A woman identified only as "Mrs. T," spoke from personal experience.

"My family not only suffered the sudden lost of a murdered relative, my family also lives with the fear of intimidation as the case winds its way through the courts," "Mrs. T." said.

The governor's plan would make witness intimidation a felony rather than a misdemeanor. It would increase the penalty to 20 years and out-of-court statements from victims who've been killed or scared off could be admitted in court as an exception to the hearsay rule.

That provision caused a similar bill to be defeated last year.

"The meat of this bill is the hearsay exception. That is, if someone is successful in intimidating a witness and actually making them unavailable by killing them or otherwise, we can still use their statement, that witnesses statement in a court of law," said Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey said several similar bills are being examined in committee. "I just think everybody needs to come together, put the politics aside and get a piece of legislation done that will give the prosecutors the tools we need to get these guys off the street," he said."


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