A little knowledge could go a long way - May 13
Dan Ruth's article about the jury system is right on the money. I hope he gets an award for it as it is one of his best articles.
I would also like to point out that the same issues hold true with many other jury trials, namely that there is rarely a trial that is judged by "peers." As a physician, malpractice trials come to mind.
I don't know the solution, but perhaps there needs to be some change in the "jury" concept and organization.
Life has become rather complicated, and it is often difficult, if not impossible, to fairly judge issues in other aspects of life. How can issues involving a street person, a retired person, a doctor, a Wall Street tycoon, a politician, a lawyer or a corporate chief executive be understood and fairly ruled upon by a "random jury of peers"?
Yes, the lawyers are supposed to level the playing field, but who granted them with infinite understanding and how is the average Joe supposed to understand them?
Gary Keats, Clearwater
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Fair jury can be found
In reading Daniel Ruth's piece on the jury selection of the Casey Anthony trial, I found myself agreeing with most of his observations.
However, the comments indicating that peers could consist of the unemployed, the uninformed, retirees and maybe the homeless made me question the possible correlation between each group.
Unemployed people are not necessarily informed, uninformed or homeless. Uninformed people may be in any of the indicated groups. Retirees can be informed or uninformed and are probably not homeless. And homeless people can be informed or uninformed and looking for a shelter, meals or pay, or they may not need or want any of the above.
Our judicial system is what it is, and the selection of jurors should continue to evaluate peers and not groups. If I had a case where my life depended on a jury of my peers, I also would want those who are interested in doing their civic duty to serve on the jury. A competent jury selection process by both the judge and the attorneys involved should be able to select a jury that is fair and capable of determining the best verdict based on the facts and not on what group they have been categorized in.
Michael P. Ferrante, Spring Hill
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Long way home - May 8
Courage and faith
Thank you, Alexandra Zayas, for the beautiful story of Yvonka De Ridder, Elee Ecoffey and J.J. I am a mother of two who has always felt gay people should be able to adopt. For anyone who may oppose our new law, I ask you to read this story and ask yourself how in the world anyone would want to keep loving, supportive parents from providing a home to a child.
It takes courage and faith, and I love Yvonka, Elee and J.J. for it. I will keep them in my prayers and ask God to continue to bless their lives.
Becky Forsythe, St. Petersburg
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A wonderful milestone
This article was not only beautifully written by Alexandra Zayas, but also exquisitely photographed by Melissa Lyttle. Each is to be commended for this excellent piece of journalism.
Also, the timing of this article could not have been better. May is National Foster Care Month. Across the country, thousands of kids just like J.J., the former foster child who is the focus of the article, pine away for an adoptive home, a forever family.
While at first blush the raw numbers can be staggering, half a million kids in foster care nationwide, the good news is J. J. and his newly minted mom, Yvonka, are the face of an adoption milestone in Florida and a new avenue for foster care kids to be adopted. That new world now opened up welcomes Florida's gay foster parents to adopt their precious foster child(ren).
As an adoptions professional always looking to grow adoption, I say hurray for Yvonka and her handsome son, J.J. Here's hoping that this forever family is one of the first of an endless wave of similarly situated foster families finalizing their adoption in Florida.
Jeanne T. Tate, Tampa
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Reassess the Afghan war - May 11
Where we went wrong
Thank you for your editorial. But you should have considered if our objective of destroying al-Qaida in Afghanistan could have been achieved without the impossible mission of nation building.
I find it interesting that you printed a column by Randy Schultz in the same issue: "How we got lost in Iraq." Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a fairly wealthy and developed country, or was before Saddam Hussein's megalomania got the best of him. Iraq is a historical center of the Arab world. Its oil reserves are of great importance to the world economy. If you are going to get "lost" in the dubious business of nation building, Iraq was a lot better investment than Afghanistan. Considering our costs and casualties, it may not have been a good idea but at least there's a friendly, functional and democratic government in place in Iraq today. That isn't even in sight in Afghanistan.
James Klapper, Oldsmar
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What this man cost us in blood and treasure - May 8
Don't include Iraq
The costs of the war on terror have been extraordinary high in lives and treasury. The costs we identify with this ongoing fight should not, however, include those associated with our precipitous invasion of Iraq. That war was started for reasons unrelated to the 9/11 attack on us. As evil as Saddam Hussein was, Iraq was never a safe haven for al-Qaida, and I don't believe posed a threat to our national security.
Tom Boerger, Tampa
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True cost is debatable
Susan Taylor Martin quantified the enormous cost Osama bin Laden has imposed on America in human lives and material input, but that is merely part of the story of the "war" on terror. Costs such as ruined American family lives, grief, disrupted relationships and constraints on personal freedoms must be counted. We can debate whether the Iraq invasion was significantly related to terrorism (proof is lacking) and whether President George H.W. Bush could have prevented much of the costs by taking Iraq out in Desert Storm.
More debatable is whether Osama bin Laden or America is more directly accountable for some of these costs because of choices we made engaging in two long wars. Historians can render opinions in hindsight but I think there are good cases on both sides. The only certainty I recognize is that we will be fighting terrorists for years.
James Gillespie, St. Petersburg