1. Archive

Too often, juries aren't allowed the whole story

Published Sep. 4, 2005

Editor: Last week I served as juror in the State vs. Michael Porter rape trial.

Porter was sentenced to life in prison 14 years ago entirely due to "there's no doubt in my mind" testimony of the victim and subsequent conviction of multiple charges of sexual battery. According to articles written at the time (and the prosecution), no physical evidence linked Porter to the crime _ not a single fingerprint, hair fiber or blood drop. In the hours and days after the attack the victim lied to police, EMTs, doctors and detectives, saying she had not seen the attacker, then provided a brief description. She stated she "feared for her life" and that's why she lied.

At a later hearing, she identified Porter as the rapist. Porter didn't have to go to the hearing. He went believing she'd see him, not recognize him, and the nightmare would end. Unfortunately, it had just begun and did not end until Porter was acquitted by a jury of his peers on Nov. 16.

This jury knew nothing of the prior trial, knew nothing about Porter. As it turned out, this jury did not know many, many things.

Like police reports not turned over to the defense identifying another suspect matching the first description the victim gave. Or the 1987 state attorney's memo summarizing another prosecutor's interview with the victim stating she did not say anything to the police as she was not 100 percent convinced that her rapist was the defendant. Or that she told everyone she met she had not seen her attacker and could not identify him. This jury didn't know about the Marlboro butt found on her kitchen floor that was never sent for DNA testing because such a test wasn't available at the time. Or that it was not used as evidence in the first trial.

This jury didn't know the first verdict was overturned by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals calling the withheld reports highly disturbing and ordered a new trial. This jury was not aware that a semen sample allegedly left by the attacker was not tested because the police didn't have a suspect and that it still wasn't tested after Porter became the prime suspect.

And they didn't know the man matching the first description the victim gave was overheard by his friend confessing to the crime. The man described on the police report. The one not turned over to the defense. The one who could possibly have set an innocent man free 14 years ago.

Juries all over the U.S. are sending people to prison for life based on eyewitness testimony and are left to their own devices to determine another's fate (especially when physical evidence is lacking), sometimes considering parts of testimony to make the pieces fit and discarding the rest. A jury of your peers is not allowed to hear the whole story, not allowed to hear vital information to aid in reaching a verdict. Juries are sending innocent people to prison. And it almost happened again. Was this victim raped? Yes, she was. Did Michael Porter do it? A not-guilty verdict was reached despite the lack of information regarding the first trial, despite many things. This time.

Tina L. Chandler, New Port Richey

Politics next for exotic dancer

Re: Adult business is not immoral, Nov. 15 letter

Editor: Coming from an exotic dancer, some parts of the letter sound familiar. What's next, law school, an unelected judgeship, maybe a run for Congress?

Paul McElroy, New Port Richey

How does your city spend your money?

Editor: On Dec. 3, the taxpayers of New Port Richey will have the opportunity to see, again, how our elected officials use our tax money through assessments.

It is considering another assessment citywide for something that is already paid for.

Fire rescue: Is that not ambulance service that is supplied by the county and paid through our insurance? Street lighting: Is that not paid for through Florida Power with the 10 to 15 percent that is given back to the city?

Ten to 15 percent of bills paid by consumers are paid to the city of New Port Richey as a municipal franchise fee and a municipal utility tax. In other words, a tax.

Questions to ask our elected leaders: What happens to all the money given back?

Let us not forget the "storm water utility fee" that everybody is suppose to pay. Is this how the city of New Port Richey is going to recoup its loses from the anticipated move of the hospitals?

Justin Billings, New Port Richey

The Times didn't inform voters of record

Editor: Being a lifelong Republican, I am appalled at the ignorance of the elderly population. U.S Rep. Mike Bilirakis has done virtually nothing for the elderly section of his district. I am having a hard time understanding why your paper hadn't informed anyone of this man's voting record.

Being from Chicago, I have seen how a Democratically controlled paper can be biased. If you had informed his constituents how he really feels about the elderly, the people may have had a chance for a change in Washington. I voted for Chuck Kalogianis, because I made it my business to get informed about the candidates prior to Election Day. Bilirakis didn't show up for forums he was scheduled for. I believe that Bilirakis wouldn't debate because he was afraid of being raked across the coals for his record. What he did was go on the radio and lie and mislead us.

Mr. Bilirakis' prescription drug plan he boasts about helps the poorest of his constituents, but it doesn't help them much. What about the rest of us?

It's true that Mr. Bilirakis may have had something to do with the Port Richey Veterans Clinic, but have you seen the parking situation there lately?

Have you spoken with any of the vets in this area? I have, and they tell me that the wait to receive treatment is a joke. The clinic only serves as a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. We needed a hospital, which would have served our area and many others. I have been told that the St. Petersburg facility has a one-year waiting list for treatment. So, with that being the situation, exactly how does this help our vets?

Once again, truths have been hidden, voters have been manipulated, and Democrats will be portrayed as sore losers when in reality they were robbed.

J. Costello, New Port Richey

We can give stray cats better care

Re: Check out how British take care of animals, Nov. 13 letter

Editor: In Wauwatosa, Wis., is an organization called CUFA, Citizens United for Animals. Volunteers trap cats when called on. They spay or neuter and release back. I called PAWs here and was told it is too big of a problem all the way around. There are hundreds of cats found up and down U.S. 19, behind malls and businesses, and, yes, they keep reproducing. I feed seven or so cats behind one of the strip malls, all of them, I think, related, but beautiful, and at least for now they're not starving.

I do wish this type of organization could start here in combination with what is already being done. It takes more than letter writing. It takes dedicated men and women to volunteer their services, vets alike, for the spaying and neutering. Just want to let people know things could be done.

Judy Schmidt, Holiday