I'm a former Chicago homicide detective. For years, my partner and I caught three to five fresh homicides a month — sometimes more. We cleared upwards of 90 percent of them.
I would take the death penalty further than Sen. Thad Altman's bill to require all 12 jurors to vote for it. I've seen cases where there were too many foulups, too many incompetent defense lawyers, too many mistaken eyewitness identifications, too much media hype and public emotion and pressure, and way too little hard evidence.
If all that is needed to convict is "beyond a reasonable doubt," certainly more than that is needed to take that last irreversible step of taking a human life. In order to take that final step, we should require evidence so overwhelming that there is no doubt. It is a high bar, but not impossible. And what is an innocent life worth in the United States?
Patrick Seery, Ruskin
We don't need more blight | Nov. 25, letter
Floating river hotels
are not 'junk barges'
It was with dismay that I read the letter referring to barges being considered for student housing by Eckerd College as "junk barges."
These are not former barges that hauled coal or grain. They are from the excursion boat the River Explorer, a floating hotel that cruises the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers and the Intracoastal Waterway. They are two two-story barges. The first has a dining room, kitchen, lounge, library, bar, offices, gift shop, theater and the guest pilot house in front where I spent many hours watching the river and learning to read the river charts in front of us. The second barge sleeps about 195 people in comfortable cabins with private baths, TVs, VCR players and refrigerators. Lower cabins have a small veranda, and on top is the sun deck for enjoying the fresh air.
At town landings, we got off to tour the area by bus to learn about the history and geography. We visited museums, local industries and historical sites. We "barge-mates" loved the River Explorer and were deeply saddened by the news that our wonderful trips were over.
I envy the students who might get to live aboard the River Explorer.
Anne Marshall, Sun City Center
Immigration not state's top priority Nov. 28, editorial
Don't hurt Florida economy
This editorial rightly concluded that Florida's pursuit of an enforcement-only policy would hurt the state's agriculture industry. The negative impact of similar policies in Georgia and Alabama shows how enforcement-only measures that do not include temporary worker permits or a reformed visa structure are out of touch with reality.
What the editorial fails to recognize is the devastating impact that a hard-line immigration policy could have on other important sectors of Florida's economy, beginning with tourism, hospitality and international trade.
Florida enjoyed 82.3 million visitors in 2010, 11.1 million of whom came from foreign countries. As the "Gateway to the Americas," the state is a leader in international trade with $103 billion worth of merchandise flowing through our airports and seaports each year. Florida also hosts some 300 regional headquarters of companies from all over the world and maintains 20 foreign trade zones.
An overzealous immigration policy could produce an immediate chilling effect. Florida can't afford the type of negative publicity Alabama recently received for jailing a top Mercedes executive who'd left his passport in his hotel room and therefore lacked proper identification.
In addition, like agriculture, Florida's huge hospitality industry relies on seasonal workers and hardworking immigrants to fill many jobs in hotels, restaurants and theme parks. As is the case in the fields, many of these jobs would otherwise not be filled.
Now is not the time for Florida to risk hurting so many parts of its struggling economy by embracing a politically driven immigration agenda that ignores many realities around this complicated issue.
Joe Kefauver, ImmigrationWorks Florida, Orlando
How business giants build on their luck Nov. 27
Apple was the innovator
This article made the point that Bill Gates' success was not only luck but prescience. It says he was able to sense the timing for a new operating system before others saw the need.
This sounds good but is far from the truth. Bill Gates' success was based on co-opting the Apple operating system created by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. The latter was so protective of their system that he would not allow it to be licensed or corrupted by any outside programmers. All applications for Macintosh computers had to be theirs — Apple's. This opened the door for Gates and his Microsoft crew to create (copy, in large part) Apple's system, Microsoft MS-DOS, or "D operating system" for personal computers made by other companies, like IBM, who made the computers but had no workable operating system and could not be licensed by Apple.
Steve Jobs has been very outspoken on this subject — that Bill Gates "stole" Apple's system, icons, windows and all. The recent biography by Walter Isaacson contains this charge, and the St. Petersburg Times printed excerpts of these statements in the past month or so. Fortune and other publications have likewise.
So, Bill Gates is to be praised for his philanthropic largesse but not for his brilliant foresight or inventiveness.
Armand Haas, Safety Harbor
3 words: No more mugs | Nov. 27
Words of thanks are enough
I have been teaching in Hillsborough County for many years and I can tell you that teachers do not expect any gifts from children or their parents. Here is the best thing that you can give a teacher: a few kind words.
I recently received a hand-written note from a parent thanking me for teaching her child. The note brought me to tears. This act of kindness is what keeps teachers wanting to teach. The best gift that you can give a teacher is a well-mannered child who wants to learn.
Karen Bishop, Tampa
Vote them all out | Nov. 29, letter
Do your research, then vote
The letter writer who intends to simply vote against all incumbents is taking the lazy way out.
In spite of the fact that Congress and the state Legislature as a whole have an abysmal record, there are still individual lawmakers who are honest, industrious and competent. To vote these individuals out because of the behavior of the rest of the group would not only be an injustice, but inefficient as well. Every organization needs people with experience.
As voters, here is what we should do: Spend a little time on the Internet or at the local library. Look up your senator or representative's voting record and see if you agree on the issues that are most important to you. Remember, you are not likely to agree on absolutely everything. Don't depend just on the opinions of others, particularly those who have their own agenda. And especially don't base your vote on the misrepresentations and downright lies contained in commercials that will soon be filling the airwaves.
Find out for yourself if your representative has been doing a good job. Keep in mind also that the person running against him or her will likely be an unknown quantity, and that promises that are easy to make are often hard to keep. Then vote intelligently.
Michael Ross, Pinellas Park
Restore due process to drug cases Nov. 24, editorial
Loss of civil liberties
The steady rise in drug-sniffing dogs in schools, warrantless police searches, and random drug testing have led to a loss of civil liberties in America while failing miserably to prevent drug use.
Based on findings that criminal records are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as deterrents, a majority of European Union countries have decriminalized marijuana. Despite marijuana prohibition, lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the United States than any European country.
The drug war threatens the integrity of a country founded on the concept of limited government. It's not possible to wage a moralistic war against consensual vices unless privacy is eliminated, along with the U.S. Constitution. America can either be a free country or a "drug-free" country, but not both.
Robert Sharpe, policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Arlington, Va.