For Immediate Release
May 31, 2016
Kansas City’s leading public safety chiefs, the elected prosecutor and community partners have joined together to oppose a St. Louis Court’s order to turn over highly personal information, including social security numbers and personal phone numbers, to criminal defendants, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced today.
“We want to protect victims and witness, rather than expose them to potential harm just because they have participated in our justice system,” Baker said in a statement issued by her office today. “Our goal is always to protect them, as well as the privacy of first responders and law enforcement officers.”
Baker, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte, Fire Chief Paul Berardi and community partner Ad Hoc Group Against Crime and Rose Brooks Center stated in a friend-of-the-court brief or amicus curiae that the recent St. Louis court’s requirement that personal information of crime victims and witnesses be turned over to criminal defendants violates their constitutional rights and threatens public safety by jeopardizing prosecutions of dangerous criminals.
The St. Louis court’s requirement “would greatly hamper the efforts of the Prosecutor’s Office to fulfill their duty to keep victims and witnesses in Jackson County cases safe from threats and criminal harm,” the prosecutor’s office argued in the brief, filed today in the Missouri Eastern District Court of Appeals.
Future cooperation of victims and witnesses in future criminal actions against dangerous criminals may be jeopardized, the brief further stated. Under the St. Louis ruling, any individual who cooperates with police by simply answering a question of a police officer is not warned in advance that their highly personal information will be turned over to a defendant. They also get no opportunity to challenge such disclosure.
What’s more, the St. Louis court’s ruling jeopardize public servants, including police officers and firefighters, who have never agreed that their highly restrictive personnel information should be disclosed in criminal cases, the brief argued.
“If the State is required to disclose personal information of all witnesses in criminal cases, such a rule would infringe on the privacy interests of the employees of these amici and may make it more difficult for amici to attract and retain potential employees,” the legal filing stated.
In the St. Louis case that precipitated the judge’s order requiring disclosure of all witnesses’ personal information, the court chose not to place the information under a protective order. The Jackson County amicus brief makes clear that such a protective order would have been the appropriate way to assure the defendants’ discovery of relevant victim and witness information but still protect the more highly restrictive personal data.
With the brief filed today, Jackson County prosecutors filed a motion seeking leave to file the brief.
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