Gov. Scott signs bill protecting identity of witnesses to crimes

NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A new bill has been signed into Florida law that will protect the identity of witnesses to crimes.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Witness Protection Bill, Tuesday, which came as a victory for the many South Florida parents who’ve lost their children to gun violence.

“The governor just signed the bill, and you can hear the parents screaming,” described Tangela Sears. “It’s similar just like child abuse, human trafficking, their names are prevented from being seen.”

Sears has played a critical role in making the law a reality.

After losing her own son to gun violence, Sears was moved to start a group called Parents of Murdered Children. The group meets weekly at the Northside Miami-Dade Police substation and holds rallies for the children killed so senselessly.

One can be reminded of the death of 8-year-old Jada Page, a young girl caught in the line of fire outside of her home. “If you know something, please say something,” Jada’s mother said in tears. “She deserves justice. I deserve justice.”

Another death that comes to mind is that of 6-year-old King Carter, who was hit by a stray bullet on his way to buy candy. “My son can’t come back, so it ain’t no closure,” said King’s father.

The voices of parents could be heard carrying their heartache at the loss of their children, and their need for justice.

“My son’s life was taken by one of his teammates,” said one mother.

“I feel like a failure. I couldn’t even protect my own child,” said one father.

So many families broken and seeking justice, and they say it’s the code of silence in the community keeping witnesses from coming forward.

“The killers just walking around and continuing to kill and will kill the witness,” said Sears.

However, with House Bill 111 now signed into Florida law, a witness’ identity will be confidential and blocked from public record.

“They’re sending a strong message to them,” said Arlene Byrd. “Beware, because someone is watching, and they’re going to do the right thing, and they’re going to testify, and they’re going to put you where you belong — behind bars.”

The hope is the protection will now break the code of silence currently crippling justice for so many families who still seek closure.

“This is hope for the many mothers that’s out there, that’s been waiting for years and years and haven’t had any closure,” Byrd said.

The bill has been two years in the making, and the mothers involved said the countless trips to Tallahassee have been well worth it.

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