In all likelihood, nearly all the witnesses in the rape trial of two Jefferson County boys this week wish devoutly they did not have to be part of the proceeding. Most of the witnesses are other teenagers, after all.
But the witnesses have no choice. In a criminal proceeding, people called to testify can do so voluntarily or be subpoenaed to participate whether they want to or not. And once they are on the witness stand, they must swear to tell the truth, under penalty of prosecution for perjury.
All this makes a report that surfaced during the first day of the trial especially disturbing. It is that some witnesses have been threatened.
Emotions have run high during months preceding the trial. There have been claims - simply not accurate - of some sort of culture that excused and/or covered up misdeeds by high school athletes. Many in the community have been upset and angered by being unfairly criticized.
But threatening witnesses in a criminal trial is unacceptable, whatever the motive.
Reports of such intimidation should be investigated thoroughly by law enforcement agencies. If threats have been made, those responsible should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished severely.
Attempts to subvert justice are not acceptable in any situation, in any community - and they should not be tolerated here and now.