Whitehouse on Witness Protection and Cornell Young (posted May 28, 2000)
Interviewed today on WPRI-TV "Newsmakers" show, Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse admitted his office needed to be "more pro-active" in protecting witnesses in murder cases. He also explained why he would not release the grand jury report on the shooting death of Providence Police Officer Cornell Young, Jr. Questioned by Jack White and Scott MacKay, Whitehouse had the following comments:
Why His Office Did Not Provide Protection to Witness Jennifer Rivera (a 15-year-old girl was gunned down this week right before she was scheduled to testify in a murder case) -- There is a hole in the current system. We need a triggering mechanism between a threat being made known to law enforcement and witness requesting protection. His office "needs to be more pro-active" in recommending protection for important witnesses.
Reaction to Girl's Mother Who Claims a Request for Protection Was Made -- "I cannot explain the discrepancy" between the mother's claims that a request had been made and prosecutors in his office who deny any such request was made.
Mother's Claim That Daughter Would Have Received Protection if White -- "the vast majority of our witness protection coverage and expenditures go to members of the minority community. The unfortunate fact is that most of our murders are committed by members of the minority community on members of the minority community in minority neighborhoods and the witnesses to them are people who live in those neighborhoods."
Why He Doesn't Want Cornell Young Grand Jury Report Made Public -- It is important "to protect the integrity of the testimony that people give to a grand jury. People can be asked to give to a grand jury testimony that is personally embarrassing to them, that could put them in harm's way with people who they are afraid of, that could humiliate them or their loved ones, that could reveal conduct that is inappropriate or wrong." However, he conceded that if there is a civil trial, much of this testimony will be made public.
Wishes He Had Done Two Things Differently in Young Investigation -- Wished he had been clearer in explaining that his investigation had wide representation of minorities on the commission. Reason it had so many police officers from Providence is that it is the city with most numerous and experienced minority officers. Upset that critics characterized it as the Providence Police Department investigating itself. Also would have liked to have made public the role of Dean Ward from Massachusetts in advising him.