JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, has filed a bill for the 2019 legislative session that will protect victims and witnesses who are working with law enforcement to put violent criminals behind bars.
Under current law, any witness interviews, depositions or sworn statements may become public while the alleged perpetrator is still roaming the streets, putting witnesses at risk. Senate Bill 22 would allow for information gathered through the discovery phase of a legal proceeding to be kept confidential until after a defendant is in custody and formal charges are made.
“It takes a brave person to come forward to help with an investigation knowing that they may be retaliated against for it,” said Sen. Nasheed. “This legislation aims to provide peace of mind for those brave citizens working with police to help make our communities safer. Through this legislation, witnesses can rest assured the information they provide will be protected until the alleged perpetrator is off the streets and is unable to harm them.”
Senator Nasheed believes the proposed changes to legal proceedings must be passed to help deal with the amount of crime in St. Louis.
“St. Louis has been one of the deadliest big cities in America. This is unacceptable. We need to stop crime, protect victims and give law enforcement the tools they need to keep our streets safe,” said Sen. Nasheed. “This legislation will prevent criminals from harassing or harming witnesses while prosecutors work to build a case. To clean up our streets, we need all hands on deck, and I am proud to bring this bill to the Missouri Senate so that we can protect witnesses, help law enforcement and stop criminals.”
According to recent data released by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, as of Nov. 26, 2018, the City of St. Louis has seen 165 homicides, 155 of which were committed using a firearm. In 2017, the city recorded 205 homicides, making St. Louis the most murderous city of its size in America.
Circuit Attorney for the City of St. Louis Kimberly M. Gardner agrees with Sen. Nasheed that something must be done to better protect those willing to cooperate with law enforcement.
“Our community is in a crisis,” said Circuit Attorney Gardner. “Violent crime is plaguing our streets, and the most powerful tool I have to reduce violent crime and hold offenders accountable is the cooperation of witnesses and victims. Our current discovery rules put people at risk, and it’s time we aligned ourselves with the rest of the country in our efforts to protect those people willing to cooperate with law enforcement and help keep our communities safe.”
Senate Bill 22 has been second read and referred to the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.