CSI: BACK TO SCHOOLA Skinny item last week reported and written by Chris Limberis mischaracterized a report on the findings of DNA tests conducted by a prosecution analyst who evaluated samples from Lexus coupe owned by murder victim Dr. David Brian Stidham. Thirty-two samples were taken from the white, 1992 SC400, including two swabs from the radio knobs. In the prosecution's key finding, criminologist Curtis Reinbold, of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, reported "the DNA profile from radio knobs is a mixture. The major component of the mixture matches the DNA profile from David Stidham at all 14 loci. The minor component of the mixture matches the DNA profile from Ronald Bigger ... no or inconclusive results were obtained at the other 11 loci."
That means 14 locations of that sample, not 14 total samples, as incorrectly stated in last week's Skinny. Bigger is accused of stabbing and beating Stidham, a popular children's eye doctor, to death outside his office on Oct. 5. He and Dr. Bradley Schwartz, who recruited Stidham in 1999 to join a once-thriving practice, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Schwartz is accused of hiring Bigger to kill Stidham.
Reinbold's report was put into the court--and public record--via a May 18 motion filed by Schwartz's lawyer, Brick Storts. It sparked press coverage that caught Bigger's lawyer, Richard Lougee, off guard. Both lawyers are pressing for their own testing, and Lougee, in a May 25 motion, says nothing should be done until he has made arrangements for his lab, Forensic Analytical in Berkeley, Calif. Logistics shouldn't be a great hassle. Storts will use Brian Wraxall of Serological Institute, down the road from Berkeley in Richmond, according to his earlier motion.
Lougee said Bigger comes first. "It is Bigger whose DNA is alleged to have been found in the decedent's vehicle. Accordingly Bigger has a compelling interest in the results of the DNA testing in this case, an interest superior to that of co-defendant Schwartz against whom the evidence is admittedly circumstantial at best."
Meanwhile, Schwartz is taking a new tact and shutting up. Storts told Judge Nanette Warner of Pima County Superior Court that Schwartz would invoke his right to remain silent in the May 31 hearing set to explore his financial status and whether he qualifies to have taxpayers cover Storts' bills. Schwartz, according to several witnesses, repeatedly told dates and his ex-lover Lourdes Lopez that he wanted to have Stidham killed. Schwartz could not afford his first lawyer, Michael Piccarreta, and then asserted that he was too broke to pay for his defense. He did not sign an affidavit swearing to his status as a legal indigent. Warner told Schwartz's business and corporate lawyers and others with knowledge of his finances to provide information for her to examine.
Storts said while Schwartz "would like to cooperate in providing the information necessary for this court to make a proper determination concerning his indigency, he is unwilling to waive his rights against compulsory self-incrimination and provide the state with evidence that it will rely upon in this or some subsequent prosecution."
Prosecutors, according to Storts, "made it clear" during a court session on May 13 that they want information on Schwartz's finances "in order to argue the admissibility of 'other acts.'"
CHOKE POINTThe legislative session had barely wrapped up when the Kool-Aid drinkers at the Goldwater Institute sent out a bulletin that the state's $8.2 billion budget was a 12 percent jump over last year's budget, which was more than four times faster than population growth.
The Goldwater folks see Arizona's surging tax revenues as a reason to pass the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a favorite dumb idea of the most right of the right-wing kooks at the Capitol.
"The public budgeting process means there's always a lobby ready to advocate new spending, while there's little incentive for policymakers not to spend," bullshitted Goldwater Institute fiscal policy analyst Satya Thallam in a press release. "Managing government growth through a Taxpayer's Bill of Rights will force policymakers to prioritize, reduce the power of special interests, and protect taxpayers."
The proposed constitutional amendment would prevent state spending from increasing at faster than inflation, adjusted for population growth.
Oh, what a load of crap.
There's the liberal argument against TABOR: The government is already underfunding education, preschool, health care, employee salaries and ... well, you name it, and the libs will tell you it's underfunded. Except the military, and that's federal. (And the jaywalking taskforce, locally.)
There's the conservative argument against TABOR: We elect legislators to make decisions, not to be potted plants while government functions by remote control. If our representatives, in their wisdom, think the state should increase spending, then we increase spending. If they think we should cut spending, then we cut it. Either way, they face the music at the polls, so we should quit taking away their power.
There's the wonk argument against TABOR: When the economy suffers a downturn, revenues shrink, and the budget gets cut. That becomes the new baseline for TABOR, so when the economy comes back--as it is now in Arizona--you can't reinvest in programs, because you're not allowed to spend money. It brings a static straitjacket to what should be a dynamic economy.
And there's the practical argument against TABOR: It's been a frackin' disaster in Colorado. Since areas such as education steadily increase as a result of a voter-supported formula--the same thing happens here in Arizona, by the way--Colorado has had to cut back elsewhere, such as universities, roads and nursing homes.
It's gotten so bad that last fall, even though Colorado went red in the presidential race, Democrats won both houses of the Legislature while campaigning against TABOR. And now the state's Republican governor, Bill Owens, is going to travel the state campaigning for a proposition that will turn off TABOR for the next five years, according to what we've read in The Washington Post.
Hey, now that's the sort of progress we need here in Arizona.
TABOR reminds us of the words of H.L. Mencken: "For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."
BENAVIDEZ BENEFITDan Benavidez, recently departed mouthpiece for County Attorney Barbara LaWall, is in familiar territory in his new gig as PR pitchman for Ridgeway Associates Public Relations. Kenya Johnson, Benavidez's wife, is touted as an account executive at the firm that is the merger of Bablove Public Relations and Ridgeway. Running down the firm's client list, you'll see the Greater Tucson Economic Council (Great job marketing that spiraling-the-drain outfit!), some state agencies, the UA Science and Tech Park and Pima Community College. Benavidez was a "going-back-to-school" spokesboy in some Pima College ads in recent years.
It is worth noting that Ridgeway, headed by another dynamic duo, Peter Bramley and Barbara Sparks, is in a building that their holding company bought from Pima Community College, their client, in 1999. Bramley and Bablove honchos Paul and Kathryn Bablove are the bosses of the real estate arm, Common Ground LLC, according to filings with the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Worth a closer look is the firm's PR-real estate relationship with Pima Community College. And we're just happy that Benavidez is in place to walk us through it.