Barely 24 hours into the witness murder trial of three defendants accused of drug conspiracy and multiple killings, a federal prosecutor revealed that a woman scheduled to testify Thursday had been intimidated at her job by two men in the courtroom audience.
Her daughter's car windows were also smashed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kwame Manley told the judge.
If true, it's a brazen example of one of law enforcement's most vexing issues: violent threats and actions toward witnesses. It's a frequent occurrence in state courts. In Baltimore Circuit Court recently, a man on trial for murder threatened a witness in court, saying, "I know your name. You're going down."
And Tuesday, a teenage defendant wriggled free of handcuffs and pummeled his former friend, who he thought had "snitched" on him.
Without witnesses, prosecutions often fail.
The three men currently on trial in Baltimore's U.S. District Court - Melvin Gilbert, 34; James Dinkins, 37; and Darron Goods, 24 - are accused of killing one federal witness in an earlier case and another man who they suspected was cooperating with police. Two of the men face the death penalty if convicted; Goods faces a maximum of life.
Manley declined to give further details about what was said to the woman and when it occurred, and identified the two intimidators only as "Bones" and "Dead-Eye Melvin."
Both men appeared in the courtroom Wednesday and Thursday. The witness has not yet taken the stand.