Apr 132006
Authors: James Baetke

The Colorado Witness Protection Agency may start requiring an annual training program under a recently proposed bill, nearly a year after two CSU graduates were killed in connection with one of them testifying in a murder case.

House Bill 1379 came to fruition after Rhonda Fields approached lawmakers about better protecting witnesses awaiting to speak out in court cases.

Speaking at a capitol news conference in March, bill sponsor Rep. Mike Garcia, D-Aurora, said, “The purpose of this legislation is to be proactive in asking the right questions.”

Fields’ son Javad Marshall-Fields and his fianc/e, Vivian Wolfe, were slain in their car at an Aurora intersection on June 20, 2005, just days before Marshall-Fields was supposed to testify in a murder case.

Marshall-Fields and Wolfe were newly engaged 22-year-olds and had plans to move to Virginia together. Marshall-Fields was a spring 2005 CSU graduate and Wolfe graduated from CSU in December 2004.

The bill would require district attorneys and law enforcement to conduct annual training regimens, education and risk assessment related to witness protection. The measure develops standards for district attorneys to question witnesses about their safety.

Dave Thomas, executive director of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council, said there isn’t enough knowledge about Colorado’s program to protect witnesses.

“There is simply a lack of knowledge that Colorado has a witness-protection program,” Thomas said.

Colorado’s witness protection program was implemented in 1995. A three-member board approves county requests to pay to protect witnesses if they feel there is a danger surrounding their ability to testify.

According to figures kept by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, about $183,000 of state money has been spent on protecting witnesses in its 11-year span. Colorado reimburses counties, with board approval, for keeping witnesses safe.

If passed, the bill calls for the witness protection program to be renamed in memory of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe.

James Baetke can be reached at regional@collegian.com

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