The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported:
The Assembly approved legislation Wednesday that would make it a crime to not report violent attacks...
Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, the measure's author, said the bill closes a loophole in state law, which previously required people to report a violent crime only if it is being committed against a child younger than 14.
If the Senate passes Nava's measure, witnesses would have to report any rape, murder or violent crime they see, regardless of the age of the victim.
Arlen Specter, the party-switching Pennsylvania Senator, recently proposed that witness intimidation be made a federal crime, though it seems pretty useless to backstop ineffectual state laws with an identical federal one.
Specter was inspired by a Philadelphia Inquirer series that vividly explained how the criminal justice system works, or rather doesn't work, in real life.
According to the paper, talking about itself in the third person as if it were a professional athlete, "The newspaper reported that criminal cases routinely collapse because of witnesses have been frightened or harmed. Prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys told the newspaper that witness recantations have become the norm in city courtrooms."
Back on the other side of the country, Assemblyman Nava's bill would place the witness squarely between the devil and the deep blue sea, the rock and the hard place, the hammer and the anvil, the... how could I have run out of cliches so quickly?
Anyway, the witness would have to ask him- or herself, who's more likely to carry out the threat? The guys in this video? Or the justice system that can't enforce the various weapons and drug laws they're not just violating but clowning about violating?
The choice would be even easier if you shared a neighborhood with them.
Nava's bill would use the legal system to threaten witnesses for not trusting the legal system to protect them. It would inflict harm on them in retaliation for their not believing the system capable of saving them from harm. There's much to recommend the bill, but only for a certain class of connoisseurs.