Our readers talk back.
Rodney Reed's Lawyer
In your recent article ["Who Killed Stacy Stites?" May, 24] you state that Mr. Reed's habeas appeal was denied because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that I "failed to file the appeal by the legal deadline." This is not correct. I filed the writ within the statutory time limit. The court's ruling related to our supplemental claim that DNA evidence had been withheld from the defense during trial. The DNA claim was not filed as a part of the original writ because it was not discovered until after our original writ had been filed.
One of our claims in the writ was that the state had failed to DNA-test beer cans found at the scene with Ms. Stites' body, and that this evidence had been lost. In response to that claim the state, in its answer to our writ, filed a letter showing that the beer cans had been tested for DNA. The letter contained evidence that no one on the defense side of the case had ever seen. The letter from the DPS lab had been received by the prosecution the day before the defense was to put on its DNA expert witness at trial. The evidence contained in the DPS letter was that a next-door neighbor of Ms. Stites, a friend and fellow officer of her boyfriend, could not be excluded as the donor of DNA material found on one of those beer cans. This evidence explains how the boyfriend could have traveled to and from the scene (with the next door neighbor and fellow officer).
At trial the defense was trying to show that Ms. Stites' boyfriend could have traveled to and from the scene on the morning of the murder, but they didn't have this piece of evidence.
I requested a hearing to determine why this very important piece of DNA evidence had not been disclosed to the defense during trial. I also filed a supplemental claim on the basis that this important evidence had been withheld by the prosecution. I filed this DNA claim as a supplemental claim to my original writ, as soon as the information was discovered. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declined to consider the supplemental claim.
Jordan Smith responds: Bill Barbisch is technically correct: The Court of Criminal Appeals rejected as untimely his supplemental claim, not his original writ. "Who Killed Stacey Stites?" does not recount in detail the outcome of Reed's appeal based on the DNA evidence. But "Breaking the Chain" (March 1, austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-03-01/pols_feature.html ) considered at length the beer can DNA and the court's rejection of Barbisch's writ. The decision was firm: Barbisch filed that portion of the writ after the application was due, and also did not meet the standards required for the justices to consider it after the deadline, so the supplemental claim was dismissed. Exactly how long it should have taken the defense to discover the DNA claim is also in dispute. Reed and his family say they repeatedly asked Barbisch to supply them a copy of the state's filings (where the relevant DNA reports were ultimately found by Reed in his cell on death row), but that Barbisch did not respond in a timely fashion. I would have asked Barbisch directly about this claim as well as the late appeal, but he declined to be interviewed for either of these stories.
How Can We Help Reed?
Dear Editor and Jordan Smith:
Congratulations on bringing the Rodney Reed case to the community's attention ["Who Killed Stacey Stites?" May 24]. It's nauseating to see our country yielding to fascism (if that's the word for manipulation of justice by self-interested racist power-mongers). So what can we do, start a collection of funds to pay his lawyers? Is there anyone to contact to get this ball rolling?
Dirty Black Summer
Your cover story of the Bastrop murder ["Who Killed Stacey Stites?" May 24], coupled with stories of Enron, dummy corporations, the IMF destruction of foreign economies and cultures, the GOP and the Dems hopping in and out of bed with one another, India and Pakistan, the PLO, the pipeline, greenhouse effects ... damn ... looks like we're all going to be enjoying some real fickle bikini season. The Hi-Tech economy is finally laying waste to itself. I suppose the survivors will learn to enjoy foraging for dinner with the rabbits and wolves.
Todd Alan Smith
Make Sure Justice Is Served
I followed the Reed-Stites story loosely when it occurred. It did not make sense, in fact it smelled a little. After reading the Jordan Smith article recounting this case ["Who Killed Stacy Stites?," May 24], it smells even worse.
I hope the Chronicle will dedicate itself from now on to bring pressure to bear on the Bastrop District Attorney's office to review this case along with the state courts.
Please let me know if there is an organized effort, Web site, investigation by family, or any other ongoing effort to make sure justice is done. If Reed is innocent, others need to be punished.
Old Enough to Die
I felt compelled to write after reading Michael King's article concerning the execution of Napoleon Beazley ["Capitol Chronicle," May 31]. I have read many articles such as this one declaring Mr. Beazley as having been a "child" at the time he committed his crime. Well, forgive me, but other press reports place him as being three months shy of turning 18. This hardly qualifies him as being a "child." Furthermore, given that 18 is an arbitrary number for determining adulthood (as some states consider 19 and 20 to be adult ages), I submit that Mr. Beazley was of an adequate level of maturity & was cognizant of right and wrong.
More Shopping, Fewer Hotels
Lauri Apple's article ["Too Much Room at the Inn?" May 31] hits the problem dead-on: There are simply too many rooms in the downtown area, and the news that a W Hotel is coming, courtesy of the Wooley's and S.A.-based Hixon Properties, could be the wrong development at the wrong time. Within five years there will be 15 hotel/motel establishments in the central business district. Perhaps the W stands for "Why?"
The fact is, what downtown Austin needs is more retail places for conventioneers, tourists, and locals. A vibrant downtown provides workspace and living space for locals, and entertainment and shopping for visitors and locals alike. In fact, of the 20 largest U.S. cities, Austin is the only one that lacks a downtown department store, shopping center, or retail district. Even smaller cities like Pasadena, Calif., have a downtown Target!
Better planning and patience is needed, and the Wooley's shouldn't jump at the one that provides the quickest dollar. A good book on this subject is Robert Fogelson's, Downtown: Its Rise and Fall (Yale U. Press, 2001).
Daniel Rodriguez Andrade
'Spider-Man' Too Violent
Dear Mr. Black,
I read the review of Spider-Man by Marc Savlov and noted the PG-13 rating before taking my wife, my 8-year-old, and my 6-year-old to this movie. Both my wife and I were shocked and disappointed by the gratuitous bloody violence in the fight to the death scene. We would have appreciated Marc Savlov being more sensitive to the likelihood of families bringing their children to see this movie. The Spider-Man movie substantially departed from the [Marvel] Comics storyline by introducing the visuals of gore and of blood slinging. We left the movie feeling disturbed and disgusted by gory visuals still playing in our heads. We also felt bad for letting down our kids by unnecessarily exposing them to this type of violent entertainment. The Chronicle can exercise more sensitivity and due diligence in reviewing movies which will be appealing to children and adolescents. For the above reasons, I would have downgraded this movie to a two-star rating and given it a cautionary note regarding the violence.
Neville (and Yvette) Reynolds
Why is the Sierra Club's chairwoman calling the city of Austin's settlement with Stratus "bizarre" ["Naked City: Stratus Status," May 24]? The settlement wins lower impervious cover and better water quality controls than state law allows the city to require, and in some cases even better than the SOS Ordinance.
And why does SOS's executive director insist the settlement is about "fear of Austin-bashing legislation," when it's really about legislation that has already been passed by the Legislature? We aren't talking about a fuzzy threat; we're talking about a hard reality.
Maybe the Sierra Club and SOS don't want to be confused by the facts. I would suggest your readers sort through the facts and the rhetoric for themselves at www.ci.austin.tx.us/news/02/2002stratus.htm. SOS and the Austin chapter of the Sierra Club are willing to mislead the public in their failing attempts to avoid becoming irrelevant. People who care about Barton Springs owe it to themselves to know the truth.
The recent review of Dogtown and Z-Boys harkens back to "the beginning in 1975." I'm not sure what that was the beginning of. The skateboarding craze had migrated from California as far as North Texas a full 10 years earlier. My high school buddies (Class of '65) rode them down hills all over Ft. Worth. It also states they "yanked the wheels off their little sisters'" roller skates and jury-rigged them to a tatty oak board, forming their first skateboards." That must have really pissed little sister off, since even in un-hip mid-Sixties Cowtown an excellent sidewalk surfboard, as they were then called, could be bought for about $20-$30. In fact, there was a local plant, Nash Manufacturing, that produced and shipped them all over the U.S. Most of my friends worked there at one time or another. Although nobody ever reached the level of expertise of the Z-Boys, we routinely did or at least attempted all the same tricks. I think I still may have a few faint scars.
'Casablanca' Isn't R-Rated
To whom it may concern, assuming that it genuinely concerns and disturbs anybody:
For the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of noting that every time Casablanca is revived, the Chronicle notes that it is rated R. This is a good abuse of power, in my opinion, but, in case anybody cares what the puny MPAA has to say, this ultra-violent film is actually (and inexplicably) relegated to a mild PG. Unless this was the joke of yours to see if anybody really cared, you might consider changing this typo. Or not.
Rail Transit Works
To My Austin Neighbors,
I have been an Austin resident for over 10 years now. During that time, I have observed many changes to the area, the most evident being traffic! I'm sure that I'm not alone when I express concern for the future of our great city with regards to mobility. For the past month, I have been traveling around the USA and Canada by train, visiting various cities along the way. I must say that I was amazed by the superiority of transit and mobility in those cities when compared with Austin. Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to ride the Boston T, the New York Subway, the Toronto GO, the Vancouver Sky Train, the Seattle Monorail, and the Portland MAX. While all of these systems have proven themselves to be very efficient and heavily used, I was mostly impressed with the Portland MAX. I say that because Portland is very similar to Austin in size and density. Contrary to what the rail opposition in Austin would want you to believe, the train didn't turn Portland into a crowded metropolis. In fact, Portland has more green space set aside than Austin and was also voted as being the most bikeable city in the country (there are hooks inside the rail cars for cyclists to hang their bicycles). Also, neighborhoods and local businesses along the rail lines have managed to keep their integrity while others are petitioning to be next in line for rail service. Do people use it, you may ask? Statistics can't answer that as well as simply riding it yourself (visit Dallas to ride the DART if Portland is too far of a commute for you). I rode the Portland MAX during an off-peak time and still it was full. During peak times they add on extra compartments to make room for the rush-hour crowd. I expect that in the near future there will be another election for rail transit in Austin, and I hope to see Austin residents choose a sustainable future for our beautiful city. Let's not buy into the propaganda of special interests that want all transit funding to go highways and toll roads only. For anyone who has ever lived in or visited a city with rail transit, then you know like I do that it works everywhere else and it would work in Austin too!
P.S. This letter was e-mailed to you from an Amtrak train traveling through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, while sipping on a whiskey sour. Try that from a car! (Actually, please don't.)
Korea Is World Cup Crazy
Happy to read your World Cup coverage! Ian Wright, "presenter" on the Lonely Planet TV series, said, in a dig at Americans, "The World Cup is bigger than all your Super Bowls and World Series." Here in Seoul, nearly every ad has a soccer ball motif and every subway-car subway map has a small picture of a stadium showing the location of the World Cup stadium. Eight new stadiums were built in Korea for the match. Soccer is always on several TV channels, and men are watching soccer at 6am in Seoul subway stations. Newspapers dedicate several pages to coverage. When Korea plays, crowds in the hundreds show up at large outdoor TV screens. In the Kangnam district, an area has been set up for daily pep rallies. Last Sunday, I was at Carrefour, the French version of Wal-Mart, during the France-Korea friendly match. The store was full of shouts from fans watching the game. One aisle has been set up to sell World Cup paraphernalia with monitors at the top of the aisles. I watched the second at a friend's apartment and could hear the shouts of the neighbors and afterwards Koreans agitatedly discussing the game on the street. The sports commentators and the French coach complimented the Korean team on its play against the reigning World Cup champion and felt the Korean national team was ready for prime time. South Korea is considered "the most accomplished footballing country in the Asia Football Confederation" on the FIFA Web site. Korea plays the USA June 10 in Daegu, South Korea. Korea may be the darkhorse of this World Cup, thanks in part to home field advantage. Korea has already started to win off the pitch, with the Korean stock daily increasing. Korea has yet to recover psychologically from the 1997 international currency crisis but hopes to do so post-World Cup. Koreans are [more] at a fever pitch about the World Cup than the anticipated economic boom.
The Definition of Audacity
Re: Gary Bradley
Let's see, so, Circle C went bust, he didn't pay his loans back (we did), he's got a $53 million judgement against him, he's behind on his taxes $1.3 million (the feds would have thrown me under the jail ... how did he do that?!), his Buda deal tanked, he bought his financé a horse-choker ring, he spends more on massages than I do on groceries, he gets facials for a medical condition that I use a $10 salve on, he skips two child support payments and says, "I'm not a deadbeat dad." He's obviously under a lot of stress, but he sure hasn't lost his skill at audacity*.
*Bold or insolent heedlessness of restraints, as of those imposed by prudence, propriety, or convention.
Kelly M. McDaniel
Tax the Panhandlers
How often has it happened to you? You're driving down the access road of I-35 near the downtown corridor, and as you approach an intersection, you are visually harassed by a cardboard sign supported by a "Homeless and Hungry" citizen of our community. "Everyone needs a little help sometimes" the sign reads. Or, "Vietnam Vet, down on my luck." Or better yet, the more honest approach, "Imagining a cheeseburger." Hard times happen, and people must do what they can to survive. Even if it means reporting to the same corner or intersection everyday, like clockwork, as if they had a real job. A homeless shelter would help, but it would be far less profitable.
Busch Tall Boys are $2.89 a six pack. Drugs are more expensive. The 38th Street crossway is conveniently close to the 99 cent menu at Wendy's, as well as several gas stations. Being homeless is evolving into big business. Donations to the homeless could be compared to tipping, with the exception of service of course. Our government has found a way to tax waitresses and exotic dancers. Could taxation be the solution to an evolving epidemic? If not, then what will? Harassing commuters for financial handouts seems like it should be illegal. However, a call to 311 reveals that holding a sign, and requesting help/money is not illegal, but if the person holding the sign approaches you for money, that could be considered harassment. I smell the potential for an unprofitable lawsuit.
Let's Get Ready to Rumble
It has long been my opinion that countries need an alternative method to resolve conflict. Holding the threat of nuclear war over an enemy threatens the entire world, not just the antagonist. I propose that the Leaders of the World, e.g., India and Pakistan, don their boxing gloves and go at each other for 12 rounds. "Let's get ready to rumble" echoes throughout the television world. Everyone can watch these two leaders jab and swing at each other via satellite. Winner take all.
If the World Court holds them directly accountable, would world leaders be as quick to vent open accusations at other leaders, or to initiate border disturbances, or to hold political prisoners, or to give asylum to terrorists, etc. I can just imagine how it would work ....
"Okay, this week President Bush will defend his title against Arafat, since the latter proclaimed the president was a two-faced liar in his recent anti-terrorist speech. They'll go 12 rounds with a standing eight-count in effect, and you can't be saved by the bell in any round."
I wonder ...
How' Bout Heterosexual Pride?
Hey, look. Whomever you want to sleep with is cool with me. OK? You don't have to feel obligated to parade your choice in my face, and I wonder at people who define their lives and build their identity around who they sleep with. Gay? Lesbian? Straight? Asexual? Like fat chicks or ugly dudes? Cool. Can we move on? Nobody is interested, and nobody is going to change their minds about it, so what's the freaking point? How much did the city spend on the Gay Pride Parade? Is there going to be a Heterosexual Pride Parade? Is the city going to pay for it? Like I said, I am more than happy for anyone who is in love, and I could care less who it is with, and they certainly don't have to feel compelled to "explain it" to me. The whole idea seems really stupid to me actually. Who gives a shit? Just wondering.
Carl T. Swanson
Free Speech Not For Gays
About this time every year the Austin chapter of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (V.R.W.C.) takes great joy in yanking up all the Gay Pride signs within 24 hours of their being posted on public property. Much to our dismay, someone beat us to the draw this year, so our annual bonfire will be postponed pending the return (or disclosure of location) or our fire wood. We sincerely regret any inconvenience to our members. (B.Y.O.F.W.)
City of Ideas, Texas
P.S. Effigy burnings will not be affected.
FBI's Always Been This Way
News reports that the FBI has, until recent policy changes, been forbidden to investigate citizens without a crime having been committed and headquarters approval are misleading, and should be challenged by competent journalists. Such policies might nominally apply to the direct activities of FBI agents, but have never been scrupulously enforced, and they have not prevented the agents from fielding an army of contractors, either members of other agencies, or "confidential informants," to do the work for them. The FBI not only gets more information that way than they can handle, but deniability when their contractors engage in illegal practices, such as perjury, planting of evidence, burglary, and other abuses of civil liberties.
All of this has been well documented by the writings and testimony of former FBI agents. There are even indications of this kind of activity on their own Web site.
The duty of the press is to question such posturing and public relations tergiversation, and conduct their own investigations.
Southwest Security Lax
I was flying to San Diego on Friday, with the dreaded Southwest. As I approached the counter to check in my bag, the attendant asked me to pay the $7.95 Security Tax. I thought to myself "it is definitely worth paying that tax for extra security."
After my flight check-in, she handed me the ticket, and said "thank you," have a nice flight. I stood there, awaiting for her to at least ask the security questions. I looked at her, and said "No, and No" to the security questions. If I am going to pay for Security Tax, you could at least ask the security questions.
As I moved on to the terminal to retrieve my seat number, the same thing happened. The attendant did not ask any security questions whatsoever. Not to mention, the security checkpoint let my bag through with small scissors, and tweezers, which are supposed to be excluded from any passenger boarding. I discovered this as I unpacked in San Diego.
My question is, does Southwest Airlines feel they can avoid any additional security, just because consumers are paying an extra $7.05 a trip? Southwest has the worst airline attendants as it is ...