Special Reports

Releasing the Witness List

A few weeks ago, I entered into a discussion of the various witnesses relating to the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.   Before I started I said the list of witnesses was a “work in progress,” because not all information has been released.  There are potentially good reasons for some of not be released, but much more should.

            There are at least two good reasons not to release the information on the witness list.  First would be if the information would jeopardize a criminal case.  Second would be to protect the privacy of the witnesses.  There are, however, two good reasons. 

            The first good reason would be to generate more leads.   This was part of the reason the police gave for the release of information regarding the computer searches.  Releasing the list might jog the memories of other witnesses, who saw something, but either didn’t think it was important or didn’t realize that it was Mr. Gricar.  It might be even more that people reading about the case "connecting the dots."  It might be an actual witness coming forward with a piece of information that would solve the case.

            The second good reason is that it might give the public a better understanding of the case.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see new people come online in recent weeks to various message boards to chat about the case, and a few jump on here to ask a question or make a comment.  More information can increase this.

            A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of the witnesses.  I only listed the names of the witnesses that were released to the press, which protected the privacy of the other witnesses (and I know the name of one not published).   I gave their location, what they saw, where they saw it, and when they saw what they saw.  Maybe that helped (it did generate discussion). 

The police could easily (and more authoritatively) release a similar list; they probably can add more information.  It would protect the privacy of the people involved, and, in the event of a criminal case, it would have to be released to the defense. 

            I must admit that generally do not follow true crime/possible true crime or missing persons cases on line or in the media.  Prior to this case, my level of involvement was limited to “water cooler talk” and an interest in another possible murder case (which might have been suicide).  However, in cases that I’ve looked at since, a time line on the witnesses, or what was known about the movements of a victim/potential victim, has been released.  Other law enforcement agencies do release that information, largely because it helps solve the cases in question.

            It speaks volumes that the first list of witnesses was released not by the police, but by a blogger, nearly four years after Mr. Gricar disappeared.