Bringing a Witness Protection Program to Mississippi

If someone threatened your life if you testified against them in court, would you do it? Prosecutors across the state are finding many witnesses are afraid to testify.
News 25’s Katarina Luketich checks in on the plan to bring a witness protection program to the Magnolia State in hopes more people will speak out during trials to help put dangerous criminals behind bars.
District Attorney Tony Lawrence said, “We have found that drug dealers, murders, people who commit violent crimes go after witnesses because they know if they don’t have a witness to testify against them, the case goes away.”
Prosecutors say it’s become all too common for people to be unwilling to sit and testify but they’re hopeful a witness protection program would help.
Lawrence tells News 25 our state is in desperate need of witness protection and members of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association were disappointed last year when the bill passed the Senate but failed to pass the House of Representatives. This year, they are again proposing what they call the witness protection package. “It’s a program designed to protect the witness to give them the safety and alleviate their concerns to come in and testify truthfully so that the jury will have all the information,” said Lawrence.
The package has three main components. The first is the witness protection program itself which would have law enforcement come up with a plan to monitor witnesses or even relocate them to public housing throughout the state if the need is dire. Secondly, it would make killing a witness, something that’s happened here in South Mississippi before, a capital offense. Lastly, it would steepen the penalties for intimidating witnesses.
Lawmakers that have been working with members of the MPA are hopeful the program will pass both the House and the Senate this session. State Senator Brice Wiggins said, “There’s a big significant problem of gangs in the state and from having been a prosecutor, I’ve seen the need for it.”
The MPA estimates the witness protection program could be run on about $750,000 a year, a small price Lawrence says for ensuring people feel safe enough to testify so we can get dangerous criminals off our streets.

Categories: Local News, Mississippi State News, News

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