Further Protecting Crime Witnesses Goal of NJ Bill
Legislation that would further protect witnesses of crime has been introduced by State Senator Donald Norcross. The measure would expand the Statewide Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) System to include testifying witnesses and any other appropriate person, as determined by the prosecutor.
The system, which is operated by the Attorney General, automatically notifies all victims of certain violent crimes and their families when a defendant has been released from custody.
"By expanding the VINE System, we are protecting people who are willing to stand up for what is right, sometimes putting themselves in danger," said Norcross. "In order for people to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves, they have to have the facts."
The measure comes following the strangling of a Woodbury woman late last year who was found in her home not long after the man she helped prosecutors convict for manslaughter was released from jail. The woman, who had been a key witness, had not been notified of his release because she hadn't expressed feelings of being threatened by the defendant at the time of the trial.
Authorities say a change in the system would only require the judge to provide a list of those involved in the case to the Attorney General's office.
"This is a simple fix that can make a world of difference for witnesses and others involved in criminal trials," said Norcross.
The bill is headed to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, of which Norcross is chair.