Witnesses in New Jersey criminal cases are being intimidated into keeping silent. In a unfortunate trend sweeping the nation, gangs are terrorizing witnesses, scaring them into refusing to testify against gang members.
Three slam-dunk murder cases recently went belly up because witnesses changed their statements. The three murder cases are among 14 cases where a witness clearly identified the culprit but prosecutors have not made an arrest. The Essex County New Jersey prosecutor has now established an unwritten rule in his department discouraging pursuit of cases that rely on a single witness and cases where witness statements are not extensively backed up by forensic evidence.
In both Baltimore and Boston, rap artists and gang leaders have led “stop snitching” campaigns urging witnesses to not cooperate with authorities. In Essex County, prosecutors say that witnesses in two-thirds of their murder cases have received overt threats to not testify, with defendants and their supporters sometimes canvassing witnesses’ neighborhoods wearing T-shirts printed with the witnesses’ photographs or distributing copies of their statements to the police.