April 6, 2001 (PROVIDENCE, R.I.) - The family of a slain teenager plans to sue the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island, claiming that Jennifer Rivera was not given adequate protection after she agreed to testify against an accused murderer.
Lawyers Johnnie L. Cochran and Joseph Moniz said that Rivera's mother, Iris, is seeking financial damages and improvement to the state's witness protection program.
On Thursday, Dennard Walker and Miguel Perez, 19, were indicted on charges that include Rivera's murder. Both have family ties to Charles E. Pona, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life plus eight years. Rivera was gunned down in front of her home in May a few days before Pona was scheduled to go on trial.
Cochran, best known as O.J. Simpson’s lawyer, is also representing the family of a black Providence police officer who was shot and killed while he was off-duty when he attempted to come to the assistance of two white officers during a robbery. Moniz is suing Connecticut over the deaths of an 8-year-old witness and his mother, who were killed in Bridgeport.