To The Editors:
What precisely is the point of the "Homefront Adviser"? I noticed that this column appeared after September 11 and I understand that the supposed function of this space-waster is to "inform" individuals about current issues as they relate to the war against terrorism and its impact on life here in America. Nonetheless, I find this new addition inappropriate, especially in a newspaper. It is also difficult to ascertain if this column is satirical or some pathetic attempt at actual journalism. I found this week's entry absolutely despicable. I think it is shameful that what is clearly an op-ed piece is masqueraded as an "advice" column, with the pretense of dispensing factual and unbiased information. I was also upset by the piece "How the Taliban Stole Christmas" (CL cover story, December 19). Even as signs emerge that the economy is about to turn around and that the United States has achieved a very swift victory in Afghanistan, the media continues to believe it is necessary to take any news and make sure it is reported, er fabricated, into bad news. After all, if this continuously gloomy diatribe is allowed to assail intelligent and rational people, doesn't it seem possible that it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Prosecutor's At Fault
To The Editors:
In reference to "Unprotected" by Tara Servatius (CL, November 14) and letters about the article: What strikes me most is how quickly the article and particularly the letters to the editor placed the blame for the acquittal on the jury. I have practiced law in Charlotte for 13 years, primarily trying cases, and all I know about the trial was what I read in the article. Based on that, I'll have to tell you, it's not the jury's fault that man was acquitted. It's the prosecutor's fault.
Under our Constitution, anyone accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. It is the responsibility of the government, the State, to prove that individual guilty at a trial. This means that the state has the "burden of proof." The article points out that the jurors interviewed apparently all stated that "the State did not prove its case." If you look at the failures of the prosecution as laid out in the article, these comments come as no surprise.
It took Tara Servatius approximately one hour to find two witnesses that the prosecution did not bother presenting to the jury. One of those witnesses was the manager of the restaurant where the victim worked who could testify about what time she left the restaurant that evening. The other witness was an acquaintance of the victim's who had seen her at Thomas Street Tavern that night and knew approximately what time she left to go home. These witnesses would have backed up the victim's testimony regarding the timeline of events, bolstered her credibility, and probably caused the jury to doubt the timeline testimony of the defendant. Why weren't these witnesses presented?
It had to be for one of two reasons: Either they weren't subpoenaed by the prosecutor because she forgot or decided they weren't needed, or they were subpoenaed but the subpoenas weren't served and the prosecutor didn't make sure she got them there anyway. Getting witnesses to court is a basic task for any trial lawyer. When you have the burden of proof, you cannot cut corners!
The DNA evidence apparently showed that the defendant's semen was present inside the victim, but all that proves was that the two had sexual relations. It doesn't prove that a rape or any other crime occurred. Again, the absence of the two witnesses who could back up the victim's timeline was crucial.
I am acquainted with the jury foreperson, a very bright lawyer who, I can assure you, has no latent sympathies for accused rapists. If she felt she could in good conscience vote to convict this man for rape given the evidence before her, I'm certain she would have voted for a conviction. You and your readers shouldn't expect a jury to pick up a ball that has been dropped from a great height by the prosecution.
How does our community prevent injustices in criminal court? By making sure the police and prosecutors have adequate resources. Our District Attorney, Peter Gilchrist, has been telling us for years that he doesn't have enough money to do the job the way it needs to be done. This is what you pay state income taxes for, folks. If you want to make sure accused rapists get prosecuted properly, then demand that your state legislators and the governor fund the system adequately. You can't have tax cuts and topnotch prosecutions. Decide which is more important
Bobby L. Bollinger, Jr.
Run Courts Like Animal Control
To The Editors:
I read with great interest and disgust the article entitled "Throwing Animals Away" by Tara Servatius (CL, December 19). She makes several valid points regarding treatment towards companion animals. Bringing a dog or cat into your home is no less a commitment than that of bringing a child into your home. She made a strong point when saying, "She will cost me $10,000 if she lives another 13 years and I'll spend thousands of hours with her before it's all over." The sad fact is that the majority of people who read the article already know the harsh reality of many dogs that are chained out and/or ignored. Ms. Servatius' neighbor is a reflection of society. If a person can't take care of a dog, what in the world are we doing letting them have children? Furthermore, what message has the mother sent to her children regarding animals? Maybe if the judicial system was run more like animal control, society would be a better and safer place. (Spaying and neutering convicts before they leave the prison may not be a bad idea.)
Hopefully the article will call some people to action. Donate food to your local humane society. Make donations to local animal rescues. Adopt or rescue an animal. Have your animals spayed/neutered (it can extend their life). Or don't get an animal and save yourself the time, money, effort, happiness and joy.
Pet Food's OK
To The Editors:
I am writing to clarify some of the statements on pet food in your December 12 story ("A Dog Eat Dog World" by Sam Boykin). Members of the Pet Food Institute, which consists of companies that produce a majority of the dog and cat food made in the US, have taken many steps to make sure their products are safe and meet complex nutritional needs of dogs and cats.
Contrary to the opinions of the Animal Protection Institute and Ann Martin, commercially produced dog and cat food in the United States is one of the most highly regulated consumer products. Decades of research have gone into pet food products to ensure they provide complete and balanced nutrition for a healthy dog and cat. Pet food companies work with leading universities around the world and employ numerous experts, including veterinarians, nutritionists and animal scientists, who conduct exhaustive research to ensure pet food products are safe and provide nutrition.
A direct result of advances made in pet nutrition and veterinary care is the fact our companion animals are living longer and healthier lives that ever before.
Stephen E. Payne
Pet Food Institute
POWs A Pain In The Neck
To The Editors:
In reference to "Happy Hypocrisy" by David Walters (CL, December 19): If Walters believes that the stated US policy of not holding prisoners in Afghanistan constitutes a war crime, he obviously sees US troops mowing down surrendering enemy troops by the hundreds. A ghastly image indeed, but one that was never the point or the intent; Walters, whether recklessly or willfully, missed that point entirely.
The administration, particularly through Donald Rumsfeld, has explained that holding prisoners is an expensive proposition it takes up resources, both material and human. "A pain in the neck," the Defense Secretary described it. The alternative? It's not killing them, as Walters says. It's letting others, namely the opposition forces, hold the prisoners while our forces are used for other functions, like searching the cave networks. This is what we've seen, mostly, though the Marines are actually holding a number of prisoners themselves and have yet to line them up against the wall.
David N. Jimerson
To The Editors:
Lucy Perkins is good, and watching her get better and better is a real treat. Sitting down at Fat City today, I laughed out loud as I read her latest ("Once The Fun Is Over," December 19). Good work.