Countering Witness Intimidation: Forfeiture by Wrongdoing

Witness intimidation and manipulation factor into almost every domestic violence prosecution. Abusers engage in these tactics because they often work. When witness intimidation is successful, victims decline to participate in the prosecution, they minimize the abuse on the witness stand, or they testify on behalf of the abuser.

But what if we eliminate the payoff for the would-be intimidator? Coordinated efforts by police, prosecutors, and advocates in the form of safety planning, expedited prosecution, victim education, and other strategies can reduce the opportunities for intimidation, thereby increasing the likelihood that victims will feel safe testifying in court. And prosecution strategies, from charging intimidation-related offenses to filing motions to admit out-of-court statements by victims who have been intimidated into silence, can actually increase the likelihood of conviction and the penal consequences for the intimidator. This presentation focuses on forfeiture by wrongdoing as a solution in the case of witnesses who are unavailable for trial due to the offender’s wrongful conduct.

At the conclusion of this training, participants will be better able to:

• Reduce opportunities for intimidation.

• Educate victims about intimidation.

• Preserve evidence of intimidation that will help to convict the abuser, regardless of whether (or how) the victim testifies.

• Litigate motions to admit evidence under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing.