Shackles make good sense in assuring courtroom safety

Letters to the Editor
Published October 5, 2006

A haunting vision

Re: The shackling of juveniles.

I recently spent a morning in Tampa in Juvenile Court and watched as an adolescent female sat shackled from 8:30 a.m. until lunch. During my visit at least five other juveniles were shackled in front of all, including some small children.

Certainly these citizens could be restrained in an anteroom before transport. As a social worker, I have spent many days in adult court and have rarely seen anyone shackled at the ankles and from waist to wrist. This vision will haunt me for a long time.

Liza Isaac, Tampa

The violent will find a way

Re: The human costs of a gun culture, editorial Oct. 4.

This editorial states, "Tougher gun laws are unlikely to stop a deranged man like Roberts, whose guns were purchased legally," but goes on to rant about tougher gun laws. This deranged man who killed these girls could have just as easily used a knife or a homemade explosive device. He was determined to finish his act regardless of the method. Most of the recent school shootings have also involved possible explosives. Whether the shooters had a gun or not, they were determined to follow through, regardless of the method used.

Guns have nothing to do with the violence in our society. Guns are only one of many objects used to act on that violent nature. People with the determination to execute innocent strangers will find a way. Will we then demand tougher laws on every object these people use as an alternative killing device? Personally, I like my steak knives, thank you.

Honest people who own guns use them to defend themselves and their families. The gun laws have nothing to do with the violent actions of certain people. If they are determined to kill, they will most certainly find a way.

Denise Blackford, New Port Richey

Blame the offender, not the tool

Re: The human costs of a gun culture.

Your editorial on the "gun culture" in America and its role in the recent school violence is based upon a faulty premise. You state that "one thing is sure: Such crimes could not occur without easy access to guns."

Why should anyone accept that as true? Do the guns themselves cause a person to commit heinous acts? Of course not. Someone intent on causing harm to themselves or others will find a way to do it, even if guns are not available. People use cars to inflict intentional harm, even running up on sidewalks to mow down innocent pedestrians, but we don't talk about a culture of "car violence." Instead we speak of "road rage," which appropriately blames the individual and not the tool that is used.

We should focus on condemning and punishing the offenders, and perhaps taking a step back to ask why people are driven to commit such horrible crimes, rather than focusing on banning the tools employed by the criminals.

Duane Daiker, Clearwater

It looked like a turkey shoot

Re: Suspect in death of deputy is killed, Sept. 30.

Polk Country Sheriff Grady Judd stated that Angilo Freeland was shot because he did not show both hands when he was found hiding beneath a fallen tree. But let's face it, if he had come out with both hands over his head the result would have been the same. Nine SWAT officers fired a total of 110 rounds, of which 68 struck him. The sheriff suspects that if they had had more ammunition they would have used it. With so many bullets flying, it's amazing that nobody else was hit. Shades of Bonnie and Clyde. And when it was all over, the officers "shook hands" and patted each other on the back, when sober reflection and not celebration was called for.

This had all the markings of a turkey shoot, with a human being the target, a human being whose life - and quite possibly his death - might have been entirely different had he been born white. As the sheriff said, the officers would likely be back on the job within a week. Of course.

R.G. Wheeler, Lealman

What motivated the gunfire?

I was greatly relieved that the killer of a beloved Polk County sheriff's deputy was apprehended. He deserved to die if he made any moves that could be determined to be threatening by the officers.

The sheriff apparently had no regrets for the action taken by his men. Any normal person should recognize that a corpse with 20 bullet holes is not a threat. What caused the additional 48 shots to be fired? I am not counting the 42 misses.

These officers should be asked if they fired out of revenge, premeditated payback, anger or pleasure. All of these motives are wrong for police forces in civilized societies. I hope it was lack of training and panic that lead to this butchering. How each officer answers should determine if he should continue in service with loaded weapons.

James P. Aulisio, Wesley Chapel

A disturbing picture of justice

Re: Police shoot man in stop of stolen car, Oct. 3.

Looks to me like Gerome "Fat Daddy" Wilson Jr. will now have 41 arrests under his belt, and seven imprisonments (maybe). My guess is that before he's done, he will kill an innocent victim.

What is wrong with this picture?

Pat Jones, St. Petersburg

A cause we don't need

Re: Candidate's wife finds a new cause, Sept. 29.

So Laura Gallagher has a "new cause." This "content wife and mom" apparently feels that putting an antigay marriage amendment in the Florida Constitution is the state's most important issue.

Come on people, don't allow complacency to continue to keep our great state down by letting the radical right dictate what we should focus on.

How about taxes, education, tolerance, insurance, child predators, property values, water availability, development? Surely these are more worthy causes that could inspire inclusion and discussion. Thankfully, Tom Gallagher and his extreme views were voted out early on.

Andria Stark, St. Petersburg

Re: End the shackling of juveniles, editorial, Oct. 3.

Let me offer an alternate perspective. My point of view is that of a 26-year law enforcement officer, a career principally spent in jail and courthouse management. My experience with juvenile offenders is that, as a group, they tend to act impetuously, with little forethought to consequences. Recent mental developmental studies tend to support this.

Sadly, juveniles are also much more fleet than the average courtroom bailiff. I've done the four-block downtown foot chase, with a tackle at the end. No one's safety is enhanced by this sort of thing.

You appeal to "stakeholders," especially judges, to experiment with security decisions, as if only self-image, and never jeopardy, would increase. After any bad outcome, however, you will find all these stakeholders' fingers pointed toward the only legitimate stakeholder: the officer and custodial agency charged by law to secure and protect public courtrooms, for the benefit of judges, attorneys, staff, reporters and genuinely innocent, citizens both within and outside the courtroom. These are the real-life faces embodied by the term "public safety."

Finally, and most painfully, you editorialize as if the Atlanta courthouse killings never happened, and four lives were not really lost, even as Brian Nichols' handcuffs were removed so he could appear as an innocent in Judge Rowland Barnes' courtroom.

I urge you not to indulge in courthouse security decisionmaking from a safe distance. If you're prompted by the fact juveniles are shackled and adults are not, then I suggest you ask why can't we get the adult offenders securely shackled as well. And if it's passion that drives you, then I suggest you speak first with three widows in Atlanta, and ask about their children's past Christmas.

Martin Calloway, St. Petersburg


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