Letters for July 19, 2007

Every criminal is someone’s baby

Re “The making of a killer” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature Story, July 5):

I applaud R.V. Scheide for his powerful story; Sacramento attorney Michael Bigelow for providing the information and the respect he had for his client; and both for the concise and descriptive narrative on the continual cycle of abuse, how it impacts generations, and eventually contributes to the criminal system.

At what point should we hold these individuals who have often been abused or neglected responsible when they commit a crime?

Every criminal was somebody’s little baby and something happened to most of them by the time they were six to make them criminals as adults. They often face disrespect, abuse and violence throughout their childhoods. They are continually shocked and hurt into a darkness of distrust and unreality by adults they loved, depended on, and trusted to protect them. They know no other behavior than how they are treated, then they are totally held responsible for their distorted actions later on.

They say that 97 percent of those incarcerated were brutally abused or neglected as children—97 percent.

Thank you for reminding us of how parents often help make a criminal.

Susie Aronson

Is redemption possible?

Re “The making of a killer” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature Story, July 5):

I found R.V. Scheide’s article about James Karis, Jr., to be both informative and disturbing, and I can empathize with attorney Michael Bigelow’s desire to see Karis spared a death penalty on the grounds that killing Karis would do nothing but increase the total amount of injustice that goes on in this imperfect world, Karis already having been dealt above and beyond his share of injustice.

However, I’m not sure that Bigelow realizes that providing a detailed history of Karis’ upbringing to a jury of his peers might not necessarily have the desired effect: A jury might easily conclude that there are some animals (or humans, for that matter) so vicious and so untrustworthy and so warped by their past experiences that they are past the point of redemption, and the only thing that can be done with them is to “put them down.”

Whether or not human beings can ever really be past the point of redemptive no-return is something that the religious of all stripes might want to argue (we had such a discussion at my own church just a couple of weeks ago when discussing the necessity of learning to “forgive and forget”), but I wonder how many of us would be willing to work with him in an attempt to become the mentor that has so sadly been missing from his life. I’d love to be able to believe that it’s still not too late for him, but I can’t say that I would be able to put much faith in such a proposition.

Does he still wish to avoid the death penalty? Is redemption possible in his case? Only Mr. Karis can say for sure.

M. Nichols
Citrus Heights

Karis’ outcome not unique

Re “The making of a killer” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature Story, July 5):

I would like you to continue to discuss the issue of crime and the way people’s past influences their actions.

I do not believe that James Karis’ story is unique. Rather, I believe it to be somewhat typical for criminals in our society. As a teacher in south Sacramento, I see a direct correlation between “destructive” behavior (fights, drug use, sex, etc.) and children’s family lives. Students with support at home out-perform students from difficult homes by huge margins. It has nothing to do with ability.

We had approximately 30 students out of 150 expelled or asked to leave our school this year. In every case where I knew the student personally, I was aware of extremely difficult circumstances facing the student. It is a horrible cycle that doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention. No shit that Joe is doing poorly, getting in fights, and being a fuck up when his Dad’s in prison and Mom’s a junkie in a gang.

What’s sad is when you get to know Joe, you see that he’s exactly like every other kid. There are good parts to him, but unfortunately he’s going down a road leading to prison, drug addiction, and death, and there’s very little anyone can do about it.

I think it would be interesting to do an article on Sacramento adolescents in gangs and juvenile hall and examine their backgrounds and contrast that with students doing well. There are students doing great in south Sacramento who live in the roughest parts. However, in virtually every case I’ve seen, those doing well have support at home.

What I’m saying has been said countless times before. I just don’t like the way the article falsely made James Karis out to be an exception. Unfortunately, from my brief and biased view, he is closer to the poster boy for today’s criminal.

Thank you for tackling some interesting topics that affect our community.

Jeff Bird

Death might be freedom

Re “The making of a killer” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature Story, July 5):

I was very moved and saddened by this story. However, tragic and abusive as his childhood was, not all such victims become predators. This man was prepared to take an innocent life in order not to return to prison. At that point, he made a conscious choice. It seems to me that he must accept the consequences for that choice.

An attorney wanted and wants to save his life. Perhaps a humane death is best for this killer so that there is never the possibility of ever killing again. Perhaps, at some level, this killer wishes death as an escape from a miserable life of prison and nightmares.

M. del Rio

Truly beautiful

Re “You’re ugly…on the inside” (SN&R Guest Comment, July 5):

I just read Liz Purcell’s guest comment and am sickened by what I have read.

First and foremost, when I read this of course I felt compelled to look at her picture and she doesn’t look ugly to me!

What’s wrong with the people of Sacramento? Especially the women—the only reason a woman or girl would participate in such a horrible act is for one reason only: because she feels ugly herself.

And Purcell’s right. It is bad enough that men make women feel that they should weigh only 100 pounds with a 36C bra and if they don’t, they should feel really bad about themselves—but for women to partake in this shallow act is really sad.

Beautiful people who are truly beautiful from the inside out would never do such an ugly thing.

N. Greene

Do critics have cars?

Re “The more things change …” by Jim Lane (SN&R Film, July 5):

Kudos to you for printing a newspaper with the word “review” in its name and then hiring someone to perform said task who is incapable of recognizing the Los Angeles skyline or differentiating between a Dodge Charger and a Chevrolet Camaro. Please do your readership a favor and have people writing for you who are qualified to do their jobs, not idiots who clearly need to wear helmets every time they leave their house.

Amanda Bridger
via e-mail

Take their money, take the blame

Re “Smoked out!” by Ralph Brave (SN&R Feature Story, June 21):

Thank you, SN&R and Ralph Brave, for this excellent article. It really has me “smoked.”

I’ve lost many family members over the years to tobacco-related diseases. I grew up with the jingle, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

My father died on Nov. 6, 1963, from pancreatic cancer. He was 39 years old when he died. He smoked Winston cigarettes since his teens. In those days the doctors didn’t associate smoking with pancreatic cancer, but they do now.

My sister started smoking at age 13 (in 1968). She smoked Marlboro cigarettes and later Philip Morris Benson and Hedges. She died on Oct. 16, 1999, from lung cancer. She was 44 years old when she died.

My mother started smoking in her teens and smoked most of her life. She died on April 20, 2007, from vascular disease caused by her years of smoking.

I’ve also lost numerous aunts and uncles, related both by blood as well as by marriage, from tobacco-related diseases, mostly lung cancer.

How many other people have died or will die thanks to some university professors that see nothing wrong in taking tobacco money and doing research directly or indirectly for tobacco companies? How can they live with themselves and how much are their reputations worth? No matter what the results of their research is, I would never believe them if they were funded by the tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry was found guilty of violating racketeering laws last year by federal Judge Gladys Kessler in the Department of Justice vs. Philip Morris, et al. trial.

Universities and professors should not be allowed to take racketeering money. If they do take money from the tobacco industry, they are just as guilty and just as much to blame for tobacco-related deaths as the industry itself.

Laurie Comstock