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How the criminal justice system protects victims from reprisals

ST.LOUIS (KPLR) – When a crime victim testifies against their accused assailant, should that individual worry about retaliation? Victim advocates want to reverse state laws making it harder for victim information to land in the wrong hands.

The man who shot Roosevelt Ward is serving a pair of 35-year sentences.

“I learned that night that I was paralyzed,” Roosevelt said.

On top of his life-changing injuries, should Roosevelt fear retaliation for testifying against the shooter? To remove any chance the courts would aid that retaliation, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner has come out in support of House Bill 1155 and Senate Bill 513.

“It provides protections for witnesses and victims and their personal identifiers. As you know, they are so crucial to making the criminal justice system work,” Gardner said.

Those identifiers are things like date of birth, Social Security Number, home and work phone numbers, as well as and residential and work address. Current law said the defense attorney has access to that information. Roosevelt thinks that's a bad idea.

“I wouldn’t want him to have my address and phone number. Stuff like that. He’s in prison. He has to live that type of way and I’m going to have to live the way I’m living,” Roosevelt said.

Law enforcement and 115 prosecutors statewide are watching these bills. Both have been referred to the judiciary committees in the house and the senate. As the state wraps up its recognition of crime victim rights week, prosecutors want the law changed.

“We have many accounts where victims and witnesses have been basically intimidated. At the same time we have been redacting personal identifiers and it’s been no instance where a defendant’s rights to a fair and just process have been affected at all,” Gardner said.

Gardner and her predecessor have stood firm on redacting information that could hurt a witness or information but a judge could still order the release to the defense team.

If you have questions about the proposed legislation or you need help as a crime victim, visit the Crime Victim Advocacy Center and the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office.