Letters to the Editor

Shortly after his jail release , Tahmir Craig gets out of his mother's car. MARI A. SCHAEFER / Staff
Shortly after his jail release , Tahmir Craig gets out of his mother's car. MARI A. SCHAEFER / Staff
Posted: April 04, 2013

Tale of the tape bests eye witness

In clearing Tahmir Craig of the Chester shooting death of Devon Williams, the prosecutor played fair and square and kept investigating, and technology showed what the naked eye missed: Craig was not the man visible in a murder-scene video ("No longer jailed in Delco," March 21).

But the news isn't all good. After all, Craig was jailed for more than nine months, based primarily on video identification by a neighborhood store owner of a different race. This happened in the absence of any other evidence and in the face of an alibi and some proof that Craig was on Facebook at the time of the crime. Even though the research is clear that problems exist with cross-racial eyewitness identification, Chester police banked on it, and it took prodding to get the video enhancement done.

In December, the Oregon Supreme Court emphasized that evaluating eyewitness testimony is often guesswork. It said that "while empirical evidence suggests that a certain percentage of eyewitness identifications are incorrect, we often have no way to determine whether or not a particular eyewitness is accurate in identifying a specific individual."

It is time that the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania recognizes this, takes greater care with identification evidence before making an arrest, and promptly investigates both corroborating and contrary proof. Craig was lucky, since there was video technology to exonerate him. But what of the next arrest when there is no tape?

Jules Epstein, associate professor, Widener University School of Law, Wilmington

Humane change for agency name

Words matter. Names matter. Stigma lasts. For these factors alone, Pennsylvania should change the name of its Department of Public Welfare (DPW). We join together as former governors of our great commonwealth in asking that the legislature rename DPW as the Department of Human Services. We support legislation cosponsored by Rep. Tom Murt (D., Montgomery) and Sens. Bob Mensch (R., Lehigh) and Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) that would make this change cost-free to taxpayers. Just as we are pleased to stand beside six former welfare secretaries.

Pennsylvanians served by the agency are our mothers and grandmothers in need of long-term nursing care. They are neighbors struggling with mental illness, children with physical disabilities, and family members with addictions. And sadly, they are mothers next door, needing the protection and help of a shelter. These are not welfare recipients. They are humans in need of services.

According to the American Public Human Services Association, every other state has made this name change. Except Pennsylvania.

George Leader, Ed Rendell, Tom Ridge, Mark Schweiker, Dick Thornburgh, former Pa. governors

Heroics promote racial dialogue

After reading Adrienne Simpson's reaction to the "Being White in Philly" cover story of the March issue of Philadelphia Magazine, I could only do one thing: applaud ("The only black person in the room," March 17). For anyone who has been a lonely voice of reason, weighing a potential threat of termination due to conviction, Simpson is a hero. For anyone who has endured being "the only one" - from in a classroom to in a boardroom - and all the discomfort, taunts, and even terrors that accompany it, she is a hero. And for anyone who has only witnessed such actions from the sideline, wondering what they would do if ever in her shoes, she is also a hero.

Anthony Hardy Williams, state senator, Philadelphia

Public radio's handcrafted appeal

Local public radio stations provide a rare platform for local and emerging artists whose work does not fall within the narrow parameters of other broadcast outlets. By introducing these artists to local audiences, stations like WXPN have helped launch and sustain the careers of numerous contemporary musicians, ranging from the Lumineers and Gary Clark Jr. to locally based artists such as Amos Lee and Dr. Dog.

Philadelphia-based public radio stations sort through the noise to bring audiences the best. We don't rely on algorithms to develop playlists, but real disc jockeys to curate content. And our stations help deepen appreciation of music by providing valuable context about artists in a way not done by other outlets. Two national programs produced here - World Café and Fresh Air - are important difference-makers in the careers of emerging and significant artists.

Despite meager and currently endangered federal support, public radio stations and their members nurture the local music community and help drive the creative economy and infrastructure. The monthlong celebration of public radio in April honors that tradition.

Roger LaMay, general manager, WXPN-FM, Philadelphia

Only gunshot victims for reform?

It's wonderful that former Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) have accepted the civil rights of lesbians and gays, now that this issue has impacted their families. I wonder how they would feel about gun control if their children had been mowed down by a semiautomatic. On a related note, I'm looking forward to the National Rifle Association's political report card. A grade of C or lower gets my vote.

Linda Maccariella, Philadelphia

Firefighters welcome mediation

Your Sunday editorial regarding the ongoing contract dispute between the Nutter administration and nonuniformed workers called for the intervention of a "neutral third party" ("Mayor, unions need help to resolve stalemate," March 31). In the case of city firefighters, that third party - a neutral arbitrator approved by the city and us - has been in place since the outset of this four-year-old standoff. Twice, the neutral arbitrator ruled that our award was fair, appropriate, and, most importantly, affordable. Twice, Mayor Nutter defied the arbitration ruling and even a judge's court order to implement the award.

Firefighters would welcome yet another attempt to break this impasse through the intervention of a new, respected neutral arbitrator. We have every confidence that such an individual would reach the same conclusion as his predecessors and tell the city to implement the award. But the bottom line is that Firefighters Local 22 has complied with the Editorial Board's recommendation for nonuniformed employees and, four aggravating years later, we remain in the same quagmire.

Bill Gault, firefighters' union president, Philadelphia

Pro sports betting to save A.C.

Even watching a March Madness game at the Revel casino in an amazing setting with two huge screens and a great sound system, there was no buzz - because there were so few people. In fact, the entire place was shockingly empty. The big difference, I surmise, was that there is no sports gambling in the area, unlike Las Vegas. I am not quite sure how the Revel and other casinos in New Jersey will ever make sense financially without it.

Scott D. Bluebond, Narberth

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