Monday, September 11, 2017
From The New York Times:
A sort of legal fail-safe, material witness warrants, which must be signed by judges, are designed to be used in extraordinary circumstances — say, when prosecutors are concerned that a witness might flee or resists taking the stand. Strict rules govern their use: material witnesses can be arrested on a warrant only if they first ignore an order to appear in court, and those detained are required to be presented to a judge and provided with a lawyer. Hearings are supposed to be held to determine what these witnesses know and why they are reluctant to reveal it.
But the court papers say that does not always happen and that the mishandling of the warrants has led to dire consequences for the witnesses themselves, some of whom have been unlawfully held in custody for having done no more than attracted the attention of investigators. The court papers also claim that the misuse of the warrants has harmed defendants, as witnesses compelled by them to testify have at times been coerced into offering false accounts in court.