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Beware pretrial jailing of innocent material witnesses

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What risks do innocent witnesses of crime face? One risk is becoming a suspect once the police know the witness was at or near the crime scene. Less well known is the risk of being jailed to assure the material witness shows up to testify at trial. 

A gross example of this is the homicide witnesses initially jailed without bond in Fairfax, Virginia, for the homicide of Audulio Morales-Bonilla, to avoid any of them returning to their native countries, having been in the United States without valid visas. 

The witnesses to the 2008 killing of Audulio Morales-Bonilla had no valid visas to be in the United States, were initially held without bond as material witnesses, and faced the prospect of months in jail pretrial without bond. This would not have happened without the prosecutor’s request. If police and prosecutors want good relations with witnesses, they will be wise to rarely seek to jail material witnesses pretrial.