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Tom goes through the mail and has some retorts

Boy, the things people write ...

From Donna M.: You like Randy Graf? Randy's just like all the other Republican'ts. Dishonest, slandering and without a conscience.

Yes, Donna, I like him. As a matter of fact, I count as friends many, many people with whom I totally disagree politically. I always thought that was part of that maturity stuff people talk about. And there are some people with whom I agree politically that I simply can't stand. Life is funny that way.

From Kirsten Larsen, the foreperson of the Hassan Adams jury: Tom, you suck!

No, actually, she wrote me a very nice letter, explaining how the jury was backed into a corner by the expert witness, whose testimony wasn't refuted by the prosecution. She also took me to task for my suggesting that juries are "not overly smart." Guilty, big time.

Ms. Larsen went on to write that the prosecution did little or nothing to refute the "expert witness" and thus, "in the absence of something that would have removed the reasonable doubt that Stottman created, we had absolutely no choice but to reach a not guilty verdict."

In my own feeble defense, I must say that the smart thing didn't come out of thin air. I've been called for jury duty several times and would be happy to serve. But I never get picked. Some of the questions I've been asked that I believe led to my disqualification include:

· Did you go to college?

· Do you have a scientific background?

· Do you read at least one newspaper on a daily basis?

I think all they should be able to ask is whether I know somebody involved in the proceedings, and if I will promise to be attentive, open-minded and fair. The rest of that jury-selection crap amounts to a distortion of our justice system.

On that same matter, I got several e-mails from lawyers, including one from Michael M. from some big-shot law firm. He and the others complained about the math part of the column, raising an important question: How did you guys even get into law school without understanding math?

Michael writes: There are two ways to talk about a test result being "20 percent or 50 percent off."

Actually, there is only one way. Deviation is always measured according to how "wrong" it is, how far off from the correct answer. That's how it's worded in textbooks and in actual usage. If you could do it both ways, the numbers would become useless. If the test result showed 0.124 and was actually 0.062, that's off by 100 percent, not 50 percent.

One other thing: Michael did some math (his way) and claimed that a 0.124 reading that was off by 20 to 50 percent would mean that the correct measurement would be anywhere from 0.62 to 0.96. Alas, he even got that wrong. The second number should have been 0.996 (0.124 x .8).

Please don't sue me.

In the cover story I wrote about "Growing Up Black in Tucson," I mentioned a top-ranked Marana High School basketball team that lost early in the state playoffs. Brian Johnson, who was an assistant coach for that team, informed me that the team was indeed top-ranked but was not undefeated. (They were 24-4.) Also, they did not lose to Page at home in the first round. However, I did spell "Marana" correctly.

I should know by now that athletes' recollections are notoriously shaky.

Finally, Leslie M. ripped into me over that same "Growing Up" article. I don't have room to list all of Leslie's complaints (pardon the familiar use of the name; I am unsure as to gender); I hope we run the letter in its entirety.

A couple quick points: Leslie says that I am not "the person you want to flesh out why Tucson has an embarrassingly low population of blacks." Why "embarrassing?" I think it's interesting, maybe even surprising, but not embarrassing. What are we supposed to do, force more black people to come here to meet your quota?

More importantly, that's not what the article was about. It was about what it was like growing up here as part of a small minority. An article about the why would be good; I promise I won't write it. And I'll tell the other writer not to mention basketball (which apparently is offensive to Leslie).

Finally, Leslie suggested the number might have something to do with black-incarceration rates. I looked it up. Every state in the union has a higher percentage of blacks in prison than in the general population. Arizona's prison rate is 4.3 times greater than the general population. That puts Arizona tied for 25th, right smack dab in the middle of the country. "Liberal" Vermont's ratio is 10.3, while redneck Mississippi's is 1.9.

That, too, would make an interesting article. I wonder if people play basketball in prison.

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