Letters to the Editor, Feb. 4, 2015

Readers react to editorial

Congratulations on the Light’s brilliant editorial “Cross Talk” (Jan. 28). The incredible ego of (Israel Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has brought him into conflict with the President of the United States, Israel’s staunchest ally. He should have been politically savvy enough to realize that he was being manipulated by Boehner, et. al. As a long-time supporter of Israel, I feel strongly that he has crossed the line and doing grievous harm to Israel and its people. Thank you for taking such a courageous stand on this issue.

Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman, Olivette

After several good editorials about Israel, I was struck by the start of last week’s: “The enemy of your enemy is not your friend.” This was not a discussion about Iran and ISIS, but about those you called “Iran hard liners” against President Barack Obama. I hope that what we debate is the best way to stop a nuclear Iran, which puts us on the same side.

The problem is the gradual erosion of the American position to the point that Democratic Senator Robert Menendez states that the administration talking points sound as if they were scripted in Iran. Sanctions against Iran have now been severely weakened by the president, which has allowed Iran to produce enough nuclear material for two atomic bombs, according to some sources. Furthermore, Iran now has a ballistic missile which can reach the United States and has ventured into Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. This is a threat to Israel and to the moderate Arab states in the region. Where is the administration’s “red line” on Iranian nuclear capability and military production? 

Increasing sanctions would place more pressure on the Iranians to negotiate seriously. Putting a military threat back as a possibility would characterize our views as serious as well. At present, the United States is searching for a diplomatic breakthrough with a repressive, anti-Semitic, human rights-abusing regime. There is no limit on anything Iran does while President Obama pursues this goal. While this is a terrible threat for the United States and its Arab allies, for Israel it is an existential threat. As noted by an Iranian “moderate,” Israel is a one-bomb country. Israel can be destroyed easily, unlike most of Muslim world.

The sanctions currently debated would go into effect only if negotiations fail. As for Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu’s speech, I predict he will thank the United States for its past support and urge serious action against an expansionist, terror supporting Iran.

This message is important enough that he has vowed to deliver it anywhere. As Jews, we cannot remain silent when the current path leads to Iranian orchestrated disaster. 

That’s a lesson we should all take to heart.

Laura Goldmeier, Creve Coeur

A December letter in the Jewish Light had the question, “Why second-guess grand jury’s decision?” I agree that the jury members made sacrifices and worked diligently, but we must call attention to the injustice perpetrated by the prosecuting attorney and governor.

While it is understandable that the prosecuting attorney and police are “Partners Against Crime,” giving the prosecuting attorney an inherent conflict of interest in prosecuting a law enforcement officer, why didn’t this prosecuting attorney recuse himself, as many asked him to do? It’s analogous to the spousal right not to be forced to testify against each other.

Instead, he put on a bizarre farce, dumping a mountain of evidence for the jurors to consider, so they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. His presentation was also biased. He permitted Officer Wilson to testify at length in the narrative, without cross-examining him. He did cross-examine witnesses unfavorable to Wilson, casting aspersions on their veracity, but did not treat witnesses favorable to Officer Wilson the same way.

Our judicial system defers consideration of all evidence to the petit jury at trial, where prosecutors and defense attorneys, advocates for each side, present evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and address the jury.

The governor, in a move reminiscent of Pontius Pilate, washed his hands of the matter, when he should have appointed a Special Prosecutor, not only because of the specific prosecuting attorney involved, but in all cases where law enforcement is accused of a crime. In this case, the governor had that authority, but lacking it, we need a mechanism to decouple the prosecution from their partners against crime, when they are accused.

The evidence considered by the grand jury has been published, so it is possible to draw some conclusions about what might have happened if the governor had appointed a vigorous special prosecutor. Consider the following:

a. The victim, Michael Brown, was unarmed, but potentially dangerous.

b. The victim was on foot.

c. The victim had a physical confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson.

d. Backup was on the way, so the victim was not realistically a flight risk.

e. The officer shot the victim in the back. In 1984, the Supreme Court decided that state laws permitting law enforcement to shoot fleeing suspects was unconstitutional. (However, the assistant prosecuting attorney presented the old Missouri law to the grand jury as current law, and did not correct that error until much later in their deliberations.)

f. That illegal shot stopped the victim’s fleeing, giving the officer the opportunity to confront the victim again, before backup arrived. That confrontation resulted in more bullets entering the victim, which might have killed him, but the last round entered the top of the victim’s head while he was collapsing, rendering moot the lethality of the prior rounds.

A vigorous special prosecutor could use these basic facts of the case, without confusing a grand jury with conflicting eyewitness testimony, without the accused’s testimony, and do his duty: ask for an indictment based on probable cause, a much lower standard than guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In ensuing plea bargaining, with officer represented by counsel, prosecutor could cite the shot in the back as motivated by revenge for the prior physical confrontation. That would make the rounds fired frontally a premeditated homicide (an execution). Whether or not a conviction of first-degree murder could result from a trial is likely irrelevant, as officer’s counsel would be able to bargain it down below second-degree murder, and the prison sentence would be far shorter than life. There would be no riots nor federal prosecution; justice would be served.

I’m still ashamed to consider myself a St. Louis Jew, but the nationwide protests, including Die-Ins and slogans based on recent killings by law enforcement, give me hope for lessening police brutality of the most permanent kind. I’m proud of the role St. Louis chapter of NAACP is playing, and Rabbi Talve’s involvement. She “get’s it”, and I hope many more Rabbonim get it also.

Franklin Sax, Tucson, Ariz.