Judge Grants Circuit Attorney’s Motion on
Victims' and Witnesses' Privacy
Victims’ and witnesses’ voices will be heard to protect their personal information from getting into the hands of offenders
June 14, 2016, ST. LOUIS- Today, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office won motions to reconsider a blanket court order releasing private information of victims and witnesses to criminal defense attorneys.
The Circuit Attorney has been working to uphold the Missouri Constitution and its protections of victims for the last several years despite conflicting court interpretations of a 1979 court rule. St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Mullen had ordered that Supreme Court rules required the release of all personal private victim and witness information.
Circuit Judge Mullen set hearings for protective orders on roughly 170 cases for Monday, June 20, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. In those cases, the state will get the opportunity to appeal to the judge and request that the personal information of private citizens be kept private and away from anyone, while still allowing the defense access to victims, witnesses and critical statements made that relate to the criminal contents of each case.
Circuit Attorney Jennifer M. Joyce explains that, unlike a defense attorney, she has an ethical obligation to uphold the victim’s, witness’s and the defendant’s constitutional rights in every case before the courts, and she intends to protect the rights of all involved as she always has. “I believe the courts have the same obligation to protect the safety and privacy of all involved in the criminal justice system, not just the defendants.”
“Neither the Court nor the public defenders have brought forward one example of a case in our circuit that has been overturned on appeal due to the redaction of personal information or due to ineffective assistance of counsel due to the redaction of personal information,” said Joyce, who is fighting to protect the safety and privacy of crime victims.
This may be the first in many upcoming steps by the Circuit Attorney to protect victim and witness information such as home address, social security number, phone number, date of birth and more. An outdated Missouri Supreme Court rule has been interpreted by some as requiring that information be given to criminal defense lawyers and the people they’re defending. Joyce and her team are working to try to change the rule so it can protect the privacy and safety of victims and witnesses while also allowing defendants a fair and equitable process. The Supreme Court Committee on Procedure in Criminal Cases will review the rule sometime this year. The chairman explained it will be this fall.
The Circuit Attorney is scheduled to argue against that rule as it applies to 14 additional cases before the Court of Appeals in August.