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DiMasi case shows how DAs pressure witnesses

JOAN VENNOCHI reasonably speculates that former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi might spill the beans before a federal grand jury after having been softened up by a stiff prison sentence and, we’ve since learned, an uncomfortable bus ride, while manacled, from his Kentucky cell to the courthouse in Massachusetts ( “Will DiMasi tell all?,’’ Op-ed, Feb. 19). And Vennochi cites sentencing judge Mark Wolf’s pronouncement that, in the columnist’s sunny paraphrase, “the system works when people sing.’’

Of course, the system only works when pressured and rewarded witnesses sing the truth, rather than compose whatever tune they believe prosecutors want to hear and that will persuade judges to reduce their sentences. And there’s the rub. Lawyers with extensive experience in the federal criminal justice system have story upon story to illustrate the malign impact of rewarded witnesses who testify to whatever they think will win over the hearts of judges and the minds of prosecutors.

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Harvey A. Silverglate

Cambridge

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