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Witness intimidation

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  • Brendan O'Flaherty

    ()
    (Columbia University - Department of Economics)

  • Rajiv Sethi

    ()
    (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Abstract

Witness intimidation is a fundamental threat to the rule of law. It also involves significant strategic complexity and two-sided uncertainty: a criminal cannot know whether his threat will effectively deter a witness from testifying, and a witness cannot know whether the threat will in fact be carried out. We model this interaction and explore the manner in which equilibrium rates of intimidation, testimony, and conviction respond to changes in prosecutorial effectiveness, police-community relations, and witness protection programs. An increase in prosecutorial effectiveness raises the incentives for criminals to threaten witnesses but also makes these threats less credible. Sometimes the rise in threats will be large enough to drive down the rate of conviction, with the paradoxical outcome that better prosecutors may convict fewer criminals. Direct attempts to reduce witness tampering may also prove counterproductive. When the harm faced by a witness itself depends on whether or not the criminal is convicted, communities can be trapped in equilibria with collective silence: no witness testifies because none expects others to testify.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Columbia University, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 0708-07.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:clu:wpaper:0708-07

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Cited by:
  1. Brendan O'Flaherty & Rajiv Sethi, 2007. "Peaceable kingdoms and war zones: Pre-emption, ballistics and murder in Newark," Discussion Papers 0708-02, Columbia University, Department of Economics.

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