Suffer The ChildrenTo the Editor,
Vicki Hart's story on the Elizabeth Clark murder case ("Death of Innocence," Tucson Weekly, October 26) is the stupidest article by a newspaper reporter about a legal proceeding I have seen to date. In 1995 that, of course, puts her in pretty fast company. According to Hart, anyone who denies charges and suggests through an attorney that perhaps the events did not occur as alleged is a dirty "O.J."
To fault the defense attorneys for interviewing witnesses and trying to learn as much as they could about the victim's family and what transpired when their client is alleged to have committed murder does not strike me as much of an indictment (forgive the metaphor) of the system or of these attorneys in particular. To suggest that defense attorneys should leave a stone unturned or a question--no matter how painful--unasked when the state wants to put their 12-year-old client in jail for life is ludicrous.
The Pima County Attorney's Office, whose side I am surprised to see The Weekly on, decided to prosecute a 12-year-old child as an adult for first-degree murder, based on two facts. She was present when the injury appeared to have occurred, and a county medical examiner opined, with or without any foundation, that the injuries were "inconsistent" with the child's story. Like the prosecutors, Hart finds that to be plenty to convict. Fortunately, two judges disagreed.
This child defendant was essentially tried twice, once to determine whether she should be tried as an adult at age 13, and again at her actual juvenile trial. In the first instance, the judge found, after listening to the prosecutor's psychologists testify, that the child had no psychological pathology to indicate she was a murderer, or in any other way was a danger to society. Noting, in addition, that the prosecution had no evidence whatsoever of premeditation, the judge found, not surprisingly, that the child should be tried as a child.
Undaunted, the prosecutors continued with their case, which did not include any evidence as to why or how this diminutive 12-year-old child was supposed to have applied the tremendous forces that the county pathologist testified were at work. It is not surprising that Judge Carruth found the case unproved. Unless Hart just didn't think it important, she, like the prosecutor, is still without a theory or evidence to support conviction.
Hart does remind us of one thing that was extremely troubling about this case. That was Sheriff Dupnik's racist statement about being troubled by the case because the defendant was blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I, too, am disturbed by that. My fear is that if this child had been poor and from a disenfranchised segment of society, she would not have had the attorneys and medical experts necessary to defend herself.
The thing that is most troubling about the Hart article, however, reflects on no one except Hart. Her gratuitous trashing of the accused child's family is indefensible. I am not sure whether Hart is saying that this 13-year-old child is responsible for her father having "died mixing drugs and alcohol," or that it is substantive evidence that she in fact is a murderer. Neither implication makes any sense. Likewise, the relevance of the fact that the defendant's mother had been married more than once or that charges had been brought but dropped against her stepfather for some unrelated events, is not explained in Hart's article.
Finally, Hart seeks to destroy one child as vindication for the tragic loss of another; but, like the prosecution's case, she fails to give us a motive, a method, or a shred of evidence that would support her conclusion. She appears to want to do nothing but inflict pain to no particular end on a child, who even if she were guilty would nonetheless still be a child.
--Terrance A. Jackson
Vicki Hart Replies: Mr. Jackson thinks the defense should learn as much as they can about the victim's family, leave no stone unturned and no question--no matter how painful--unasked. Yet information I presented about Elizabeth Clark and her family, he says, is "gratuitous trashing" and "indefensible." Is there a reason he thinks stones should remain unturned for the accused?
Well DoneTo the Editor,
Vicki Hart's "Death of Innocence" (Tucson Weekly, October 26) did a wonderful job bringing the public's attention to some "facts" regarding the recent Clark case that our local papers have failed to print. It is certainly refreshing to read an article from a victim's perspective.
I admit that many times I haven't always agreed with some of the articles your paper prints--but that hasn't stopped me from reading your issues. I feel when someone does an outstanding job they should be recognized. Therefore, I felt it important to express my appreciation for a job well done! Thank you.
It is so easy for many to point their fingers at the parents of the poor little one, for hiring a 12-year-old to babysit. Shame on those folks for their ignorance. Let's hope that little Miss Clark doesn't get asked to babysit anyone again. I fear her family won't be so convincing next time their little darling does something awful! I would suggest the family get "help" for Miss Clark.
--M. J. Olson
Wild ChildTo the Editor,
I am writing to support the insight and intent of Vicki Hart's "Death of Innocence" (Tucson Weekly, October 26). I was at the hospital with the Tsakanikases the night that John died, and I was called to testify at Elizabeth Clark's trial. I believe that it is important for the community to have an alternative source of information to the simplistic and shallow efforts on the part of the mainstream media in reporting the "facts" of this story.
No one wants to believe that a person so young (not to mention female, blonde, blue-eyed, with a high IQ who lives in the foothills) could have purposely caused John's injuries. However, the medical evidence presented to the County Attorney's Office indicated that John's injuries were not consistant with the fall described by Elizabeth Clark. According to pathologists who examined John, he had sustained massive head wounds including compound fractures, caused by by more than one impact. He also died with detached retinas, hemorraging and bruises. While defense experts created theories that could explain how these injuries could have resulted, at least in part, from the fall Elizabeth Clark reported, no one presented factual evidence in the literature or in their experience, of such injuries resulting from a simple fall or series of falls.
I am grateful The Weekly and Hart had the courage to print facts in this case that other media failed to provide.
CAPped OffTo the Editor,
The Tucson Weekly's stand on Prop. 200 ("Vote Yes on Prop. 200," Tucson Weekly, November 2) has, if somewhat surprisingly, been a breath of fresh air on a subject on which the opposition has conducted a campaign of confusion rather than dealing with the real problems involved with CAP water.
If not for The Weekly's many stories on this subject in recent weeks ("Star Drips," October 12, "Muddying the Waters," October 19, and "Twice Toilet Tales," October 26), the public's collective mindset on this question might have been irreparably damaged by the establishment media's blitz of confusion.
We can only hope that The Weekly is not sometime soon lured by the same disease (big money) which has turned the more established media sour, and thus suspect.
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