Circuit Attorney awaiting ruling that could prevent release of v - KMOV.com

Circuit Attorney awaiting ruling that could prevent release of victim, witness information

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office has finished making its case that a judge should reverse a ruling that could release the names and addresses of witnesses.

Prosecutors told News 4 they are waiting for the ruling from the judge. They said the information they are fighting to protect could be used by criminals to find witnesses.

“We see situations where the personal information of witnesses is being distributed on social media,” Joyce said.  “In a time where witness intimidation is a problem in St. Louis and across the nation, allowing such personal information to be given to criminal defendants and their attorneys is like throwing gasoline on a fire.”

On June 10, Joyce asked a judge to reconsider a blanket court order where in 170 cases personal information of victims and witnesses were released. She wanted individual hearings in each case so those people can be protected.

“We have the best vantage point to see the dangers of this action,” Joyce said.  “And if we don’t advocate for this change, who will?  Too many times in our history, rules and laws have been put in place that create a danger or are discriminatory to citizens.  If good citizens had stood by and done nothing about changing those laws, think about where we might be today.”

Joyce’s team spent about 20 hours this week in hearings with Judge Michael K. Mullen to try to get the judge to go back on his own ruling that gave defense teams access to the personal information of witnesses. Prior to the ruling, the Circuit Attorney’s Office did not turn over that information.

Joyce said the April 24 murder of 42-year-old Frankie Phillips was a sign that more needs to be done to protect witnesses. He was scheduled to testify in an assault case on April 25.

The Circuit Attorney has not said if she believes Phillips was murdered because he was supposed to testify, but believes people may have had access to his personal information.

Lead St. Louis Public Defender Mary Fox argued that Joyce’s office has a history of withholding information that did not put witnesses at risk. She claims Joyce’s office was abusing its power.

The judge in the case could make a ruling as early as Wednesday morning.

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