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Judge cracks down on courtroom intimidation with 'Stop Snitching' shirt ban

The Associated Press

BOSTON  A top Massachusetts judge has banned clothing bearing the phrase "Stop Snitching" and outlawed camera phones in the state's courthouses in an effort to counter a rising climate of witness intimidation.

The move by Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management of the state's court system, follows a year in which the city recorded a 10-year high for homicides.

"There are some people coming to courthouses, a very small fraction of people, who come there to chill individuals from participating in the process," Mulligan told The Boston Globe in an interview published Wednesday. "This problem is not an overwhelming concern, but it's something we have to be cognizant of and sensitive to."

Mulligan's policy, which takes effect immediately, says that anyone wearing "Stop Snitching" clothes will be barred from courthouses, and anyone seen wearing such clothing inside will be ejected. Also, no one will be allowed to operate cell phones equipped with still or video cameras inside a courtroom.

Mulligan said the policy was motivated in part by an incident in Salem Superior Court last spring. During a gang-related trial, several friends of the defendant were seen using camera phones to photograph a prosecutor, a police investigator and a witness who was testifying, according to Steve O'Connell, a spokesman for the Essex District Attorney's office.

Court officers at Suffolk Superior Court also reported several incidents recently in which spectators pointed camera phones at witnesses or jurors.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino applauded the new policy and said Mulligan is also considering setting up rooms in courthouses where witnesses can go to avoid running into defendants or their supporters.

Last month, Menino launched a campaign to discourage merchants in Boston from selling "Stop Snitching" clothing, although ACLU lawyers said the move violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

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