Copyright 1996 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
The San Francisco Chronicle
JUNE 27, 1996, THURSDAY, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. A22; LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LENGTH: 1333 words
HEADLINE: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
REASONABLE DOUBT AND THE UNABOMBER TRIAL
Editor -- As a recent Chronicle article (''Arguments for Reasonable Doubt,'' June 19) suggests, the pending Unabomber trial will provide a welcome, though disturbing, glimpse at the troubled tenets of reasonable doubt. When first conceived in common law, the prosecutorial burden of ''guilt beyond a reasonable doubt'' meant just that -- beyond a reasonable doubt. Tragically, recent interpretations have rendered this burden of proof subject to absurd and unreasonable possibilities.
While Ted Kaczynski's foray into the world of bomb making and his ostensible manifesto attesting to the use of these bombs is not condemning proof, it is wholly persuasive and highly suggestive. Jurors should not be asked to exclude skills of common sense when in a court of law. If anything, such skills should be heightened and emphasized.
Although it is doubtful that any reliable witnesses will be produced to attest to Kaczynski's actual placement of the explosives and no videotape will be offered showing the crime in progress, jurors should not be held hostage to modern manipulations of the law. I fear that the Unabomber trial may provide more testament to the shattered status of the doctrines of reasonable doubt and symbolize the ultimate subjugation of common sense.
SHELDON V. TURNER
GET EVEN WITH THE JUDGES
Editor -- I was absolutely appalled when I first heard that the state Supreme Court decided to allow judges more discretion when imposing the ''three-strikes'' law. But after giving it some thought I've reconsidered. If our society is really interested in making and keeping our streets safe, we need to identify and expose those judges who insist on handing down light sentences which allow these criminals the freedom of turning our streets into their own personal war zones.
The next step is to hold these judges personally responsible for the crimes committed by those criminals who are the recipients of their lenient sentences.
IT'S ABOUT CONTROL
Editor -- Regarding Jody Smith's letter (Chronicle, June 19): Smith arrogantly claims to understand all women; ''I clearly believe that women feel they are expected to abort unplanned pregnancies.'' It's the woman's right to decide if and when she will give birth, this decison being based upon her private moral and spiritual beliefs.
Most opposition to abortion comes from men. They condemn late-term abortions of severely deformed fetuses that threaten the mother's life. Even birth control which prevents conception is opposed by male-dominated religions such as Catholicism and fundamentalist sects.
The issue is not the welfare of fetuses. It is male control of women. Men interpret the Bible and twist Scripture to forbid birth control and abortion in order to ensure a steady supply of consumers and soldiers to enrich the corporate elite. Thus, religion is used to intimidate women into having children.
If the so-called ''pro-lifers'' weren't hypocrites, they would support birth control to prevent conception. They could thus end abortion without murdering doctors and bombing women's clinics.
Editor -- I was disgusted to read that during his recent visit to California, presidential candidate Bob Dole said that public schools would have more teachers and computers if we refused to school undocumented immigrant children. Here we have someone who wants to deny education to immigrant kids for economic reasons yet wants to bring back the ''Star Wars'' missile defense system that no self-respecting scientist believes will ever work and that will cost tens of billions of dollars.
I ask: how many more teachers and computers could we afford with that budget?
Dole also supports the ''three strikes, you're out'' law, that costs taxpayers $ 20,000 a year per convict for 25 years, and has been used to convict people whose third strike was to steal a pizza.
The reason we don't have more teachers and computers (not to mention better funded schools and up-to-date textbooks) is not the fault of poor immigrants. How we spend our tax money is a question of priorities.
Do we want smart kids or smart bombs? Do we want more schools or more jails? We shouldn't scapegoat and blame the poor for problems created by our so-called political ''leaders.''
FEINSTEIN'S YING AND YANG
Editor -- It's a strange feeling indeed to pick up the morning paper and read that a politician one has long respected and supported has done something very good and something very bad on the very same day.
Senator Dianne Feinstein's campaign finance bill is brilliant and long overdue. But that's not why I am writing. Her support of efforts to exclude legal aliens from Medi-Cal is as short-sighted as her expressed reason for doing so. As a U.S. senator, she must know that far more than 70 percent of the green-card residents in her own state have worked hard, never collected a penny of public assistance, and paid billions into the state and federal treasuries that support Medi-Cal. I'm sure most of them would happily purchase health insurance or join an HMO, but simply can't afford to do so at the wages they earn. To cut them off as they work their way toward full citizenship is nothing less than cruel.
It doesn't surprise me for a moment to see right-wing Republicans promoting this sort of legislation. It's implicit in their ''Contract With America.'' But I am frankly shocked and horrified to find Senator Feinstein's name behind it, and urge her to reconsider her position.
Point Reyes Station
LET'S LEARN FROM L.A.
Editor -- It's greed, stupid! Every time I see yet another opinion poll on traffic, raising bridge tolls, and public transportation woes, it transports me back to gridlocked, smog-shrouded Southern California from whence I came six years ago. There, the effort to achieve balance between population growth and traffic has long since been thwarted by developers who keep covering the landscape with more and more houses, with no thought to how their new development impacts the region.
Sadly enough, the Bay Area is following their example. Unless our regional leadership work together to limit growth, no amount of toll roads or car-pool lanes will help reduce our traffic problems and ensure clean air to breathe. Let's learn from L.A. and concentrate on quality of life, not quantity. That will be real progress!
EPITOME OF EVIL
Editor -- I'm confused about all the uproar regarding the picture of Richard Allen Davis gesturing to the family of Polly Klaas after the verdict was delivered.
I think the publication of this picture was very appropriate. I must say that the picture enraged me when I first saw it, not because it was on the front page of the newspaper, but because it demonstrated to me the lack of compassion that this inhuman being could have. He was smug, disrespectful and despicable.
The Chronicle provided a parent the perfect opportunity to explain to a child of 5 and older about ''good strangers'' (someone unknown by the child but known by someone the child knows) versus ''bad strangers'' (people unknown by either the child or someone close to the child).
This picture does not teach a child how to ''flip off'' someone. This picture teaches children to recognize evil when they see it.
LINDA A. CLARK
Editor -- Normally, I am disgusted with what I perceive oftentimes to be shock journalism, but I agree with your column (John Diaz, June 15) that publishing the Richard Allen Davis photo was appropriate, given the subject matter. I'm often reading how people are offended by this or that in publications, always seemingly forgetting that life has its ugly side as well as what we would like to see in it.