BOSTON, June 8, 2012—Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office leads the Commonwealth in funding to protect victims, witnesses, and their families, a recent report shows.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Witness Protection Program: An Overview of Cases During Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011, prepared by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, breaks down witness protection funding allocated to the state’s 11 district attorneys’ offices and the state attorney general’s office.
“In both FY10 and FY11, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office received the most witness protection funding,” the report says, noting that Conley’s office used almost $40,000 in state funding to protect individuals and families during 2010 and put more than $75,000 toward that end in 2011.
“From the time I took office, I’ve pushed for greater and more comprehensive witness safety measures,” Conley said. “Thanks to those efforts and the collaboration of state officials and community stakeholders, Massachusetts now has an effective Witness Protection Fund and a powerful enforcement tool in our witness intimidation statute. Our Victim Witness Assistance Program is a key part of every violent crime prosecution, and its members are well-versed in all the benefits available to those who might otherwise be afraid to testify. There has never been a safer time to be a witness in Boston and Suffolk County.”
The EOPSS report, released earlier this year, follows a 2010 report that shows similar results. From fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2011, Conley’s office put $762,682 toward witness protection efforts in 112 cases. Those cases, all arising out of the state’s smallest county, reflect more than 41% of all such cases statewide.
“We’re aggressive and judicious in allocating these funds,” Conley said. “If witnesses step up to tell the truth, we’ll back them and their families to the very best of our ability.”
Information on individual witness protection cases is kept secret under Massachusetts law. Statistics show, however, that witness protection funds are used primarily in gang-related homicide cases: about 44% of cases in 2011 involved murders and 58% involved gangs.
Overwhelmingly, the protection funds were used to relocate and provide long- or short-term housing for witnesses and their families, with apartments and hotels accounting for 66% of all service types paid for by witness protection funds last year. Other service types included moving expenses, food, transportation, utilities, and other services.
Statewide, the youngest person protected in 2010 and 2011 was 15 and the oldest 66. Apart from the witness at issue in each case, family members also benefitted from protection measures, with sons and daughters representing 107 of the 174 non-witnesses protected last year. Siblings and boyfriends or girlfriends were the next most common class of persons protected.
“That reflects our use of funds in Suffolk County as well,” Conley said. “A complete witness protection effort entails care for family members in addition to the witnesses themselves. We’re committed to that effort, and we’ll never leave a witness alone with his or her fear.”
The most recent EOPSS report is online at http://www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/eops/witness-protection-report2012.pdf.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.