Saturday Mailbox


September 25, 2004

City jury system must be given a total overhaul

I agree with Dan Rodricks' criticism of the incentives proposed to attract jurors (such as free soda, $4 parking and Juror Appreciation Week) ("Coupons won't cure what ails city jury system," Sept. 19). Incentives will not attract jurors. Only a system overhaul will.

I was first summoned to jury duty in December 2003 to serve on a jury in January 2004. I requested sign language interpreters since I am hard of hearing and would need them to participate effectively in jury trials. I called a week before and was informed the court had not located interpreters.

My service was rescheduled -- and indeed it was rescheduled three times because the courts did not request interpreters in time.

I finally was scheduled for July 19. (I was given a choice of serving one day or one trial. I requested a one-day service.) This time, an interpreter was scheduled. I came to court at 8:15 that morning. Only one interpreter came, and we sat most of the day doing nothing until summoned at 3 p.m. to a trial.

During jury selection, I learned that this trial would last until the following Tuesday or Wednesday. I had to excuse myself because I not only had to return to work the next day, but the interpreter was only scheduled for one day.

I not only was unable to serve, but the city wasted money on paying for an interpreter who only worked for an hour and a half.

Incentives will not help this system. The jury selection process needs to be completely revamped.

Trials are scheduled well in advance. The court should know how many people are needed. Those who do show up should be put to work immediately. They should know how long they will need to serve.

And if they are given a choice between one-day and one-trial service, and they prefer a one-day trial, their wishes should be honored.

Elizabeth Spiers


Furor over Rather obscures real issue

Some years back, vacationing on the Outer Banks, my time for grocery duty arose. At a local supermarket, I found three pounds of bacon for a little more than $1.85, an irresistible bargain for my large family. It had been repackaged on a single tray from the brand-name packages, but otherwise looked fine.

Two days later, however, with all of the adults groaning with gastrointestinal distress, I wondered about that bacon. Not too long after returning home, I saw a TV show about the unsafe food practices of Food Lion, which included undercover videotapes of employees using bleach to wash fish fillets days past their final selling dates.

The ABC investigative reporters who had worked as Food Lion employees said that this and similar practices were part of the corporation's standard operating procedure.

Food Lion marshaled a furious legal attack that resulted in ABC being found guilty of fraud and trespass to the tune of $5.5 million (a damage award later reduced to $2). But completely lost in the furor was the major issue: Food Lion's routine sale of perishable foods after their expiration dates to unsuspecting customers. This practice the company didn't refute, and we are left to conclude that what ABC reported was true.

Are we now in a similar situation with the Dan Rather brouhaha ("CBS retracts bulk of Bush story," Sept. 21)?

This time around we have faked documents, agenda-driven sources, poor judgment and Mr. Rather's supposed tilt to the left. This Category 4 storm has evidently swept off the boards the central question of President Bush's apparently lackluster and maybe derelict National Guard performance.

Wouldn't a little honest light cast on the commander in chief's Vietnam-era service be preferable to all this irrelevant, amnesia-inducing sound and fury?

Connie McDonnell


An individual right to own a firearm

The writer of a recent letter perpetuates the belief that the intent of the Second Amendment is to provide for possession of firearms only within the confines of service in a governmental militia ("Draft the owners of assault rifles," Sept. 18). I would raise two points to counter this flawed argument.

The First Amendment ensures the right of the people to peaceably assemble. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons and their homes, etc. The Ninth Amendment provides that the enumeration of certain rights shall not be construed to deny other rights retained by the people.

Why, then, is it that when the term "the people" is used in these amendments it is said to confirm individual rights, but when "the people" is used in the Second Amendment ("the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed") it is said to confirm a collective right subject to governmental service?

Second, I would cite Title 10, Chapter 13, Section 311 of the U.S. Code, which provides a legal description of who are members of the militia referred to in the Constitution: "The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in Section 313 of Title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States, and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard."

The militia referred to in the Second Amendment has nothing to do with the National Guard, which was founded more than 100 years after the writing of the Constitution.

Paul Dembowski


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