KANSAS CITY — Years of waiting for justice may soon be over. A new witness protection bill breathes new life into Missouri cold cases.
Tuesday the Missouri Senate unanimously passed the Witness protection bill. The bill allocates $1 million from the State’s general fund to prosecutors and police departments across the state. It is retroactive, so all cases that preceded the passing of this bill can also utilize the fund.
Protection will be provided for witnesses before, during, and after trial.
Latrice Murray lost her 17-year-old son 12 years ago in a drive-by shooting. There were three other people in the car with him, but police were unable to get someone to come forward to testify.
Latrice said this bill gives her hope.
“It’s amazing to me and other mothers to know that they did something that will help go all the way back 12 years, almost to help a witness to come forth about a crime they saw,” Murray said.
State Senator Tony Luetkemeyer sponsored this bill. He says families like the Murray’s were the reason for this bill.
“My heart aches for the families that have to deal with this kind of violent crime in our city. But to be able to make sure that those individuals that reek so much damage on their lives are put behind bars, and we bring closure to those families, that’s the most important thing about this fund.” Luetkemeyer said.
The Senate also passed a bill that allows previously inadmissible witness statements to be used if there is evidence of witness intimidation. This additional bill bolsters Missouri’s attempt to cut down violent crime amid one of the deadliest years in decades.
Missouri has the third-highest murder rate in the country.
There have been at least 131 homicides in Kansas City so far this year. Mayor Quinton Lucas said that these bills send a clear message to violent criminals.
“Having a tool to say that, we will try you, that the case will not disappear, that witness intimidation does not work. I think that is the sort of thing that I think will make a significant difference for Kansas City,” Lucas said.
The bill has been expedited and will take effect as soon as it is signed by Parson.
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