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Free to Tell The Truth - Preventing and Combating Intimidation in Court: A Bench Book for Pennsylvania Judges, Second Edition

NCJ Number
Date Published
75 pages

This second edition of "Free To Tell the Truth" updates Pennsylvania judges on the nature of and judicial means to counter the intimidation of witnesses and court personnel in efforts to influence the outcome of court proceedings.


This bench book is intended as a reference source for the Pennsylvania judiciary in identifying the body of law in Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions that addresses intimidation as a means of influencing court proceedings. It also identifies the forms of witness intimidation and jury interference, and recommends best practices for protecting court proceedings from intimidation. Among the forms of intimidation examined are actual or attempted physical violence or property damage; explicit threats of physical violence or property damage; economic threats against victims, particularly in domestic violence cases; and indirect or implicit threats. The latter may include anonymous phone calls or internet postings, publicly communicating the fact of a particular witness' cooperation with the prosecution, or repeatedly driving past the residence of a witness. Even in the absence of specific conduct or threats of intimidation, the prevalence of organized criminal activity and violence in a community instills fear in witnesses that they are at risk of being targeted for death or violent attacks. A lengthy list of various forms of witness intimidation are outlined. This is followed by descriptions of eight measures judges can authorize to create a safe and secure courtroom. Another chapter focuses on judicial responses to witness intimidation in terms of both prevention and punishments. Recent relevant case law is appended.