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Trust in juries

EDITOR: People occasionally ask me for my prediction of the outcome of an ongoing criminal case. I invariably reply that, not having heard the evidence and arguments of counsel, I am unable to venture an opinion. But others seem to have no hesitation in doing so.

The death of Kate Steinle was a great tragedy, and my heart goes out to the Steinle family, and to others who knew her, for their immeasurable loss. But an assessment of blame, and the ensuing imposition of punishment, require going beyond our emotional reaction to the tragedy.

Not all homicides are punishable as murder or manslaughter. Neither Dennis Tobin (“Gross injustice,” Letters, Saturday) nor Donald Trump et al had the benefit of hearing the evidence, the arguments of opposing counsel and the judge’s instructions on the nuances of the applicable law. For any of them to imply they have greater knowledge and insight than the members of the jury, who did have that benefit, is the height of arrogance.

Juries are not perfect. They make mistakes sometimes. But I would rather entrust my life and liberty to a jury of my peers than to an ill-informed man on the street or to an ignorant megalomaniac.

MANNY NESTLE

Santa Rosa

Clearing encampments

EDITOR: Under cold and rainy skies, some 85 homeless people were evicted on Nov. 14 from camps in downtown Santa Rosa under threat of arrest (“Encampments cleared,” Nov. 18).

A Catholic Charities team offered shelter space to evictees. Activists from Homeless Action and the Community Action Coalition were also there to monitor police activity and offer assistance to residents. Dozens of granola bars, sandwiches, fruit and water were provided, and wet blankets and clothing were laundered and dried.

Twenty-one individuals relocated to the shelter, while some 40-50 people declined, citing the lack of privacy and safety. Hotel vouchers were not offered.

Some 11th hour handiwork by Dr. Carolyn Epple, a co-founder of Camp Michaela, resulted in county space in Roseland adjacent to that camp becoming available to evictees, and a new tent village sprang to life. Volunteered flatbed and U-Haul trucks provided transportation of people and belongings.

Yet Kelli Kuykendall, the city’s Housing and Community Development manager, said that activists were “disruptive and interfering with the outreach efforts.” Santa Rosa City Manager Sean McGlynn subsequently claimed that outreach efforts had been “challenged” by activists. But neither was ever on the scene. Activists and homeless individuals weren’t interviewed for the article.

Were activists obstructors or protectors? You can decide for yourself.

KATHLEEN FINIGAN

Santa Rosa

Heartless in San Francisco

EDITOR: I attended the Tony Bennett show at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts on Tuesday and was thoroughly disappointed — too much time wasted in repeatedly introducing his band members, not one Christmas song, overly priced tickets (for what we got) and, for conclusion, he didn’t even sing his signature song, “I Left my Heart in San Francisco,” while performing here in the Bay Area.

It may be time for him to put the microphone down and just continue his passion for painting.

MOLLY CREASY

Petaluma

Gaza and terror

EDITOR: Mona El-Farra’s Close to Home column (“Gaza knows suffering too well,” Saturday) omitted a key word: Hamas, the terror organization that has governed Gaza for 10 years. Hamas has instigated three wars with Israel because of incessant rocket fire against Israeli cities and towns, and it has launched terror attacks against Israeli civilians and — as has El-Farra — refused to accept Israel’s existence within any borders.

Hamas has diverted international aid to enrich its own leaders. Khaled Meshal, who recently stepped down as Hamas leader, has an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion. Imagine how many medical clinics could have been built with that money. In addition, Hamas has diverted shipments of cement meant for building civilian housing to build terror tunnels for attacks on Israel, even using child labor to build those tunnels.

Generations of Palestinians have suffered because of their leaders’ refusal, for more than 70 years, to accept living in peace alongside Israel. Their strategy of demanding the elimination of the Jewish state hasn’t served their people well. Maybe it’s time they tried peace instead of jihad.

MICHAEL HARRIS

Novato

GOP Grinches

EDITOR: Our gift to GOP Grinches everywhere this Christmas is understanding and advice. We understand why they would contrive to give away trillions in tax cuts to businesses and consumers. We also get that these tax cuts needed to be replaced, dollar for dollar, with borrowed money.

The notion that this new debt will be paid off by higher tax revenue in a stimulated economy is curious, but the spin is good and will fool people who just want change.

We are sorry that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office wasn’t fooled and concluded that the GOP payback scheme leaves at least $1 trillion of new debt unpaid. Don’t despair. The new deficit allows the GOP to leverage the destruction of Social Security and Medicare. If you can’t tax the rich, take it from the needy.

We understand the GOP, and you make America sick.

NED STUDHOLME

Santa Rosa

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