Letters to the Editor

From the week of July 4, 2002

Trial by Fire

Tourism terrorism: Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Our Fair City," in the June 27 issue:

First the fires hit Colorado. Then Zacarias Moussaoui wants to move his trial to Denver. What's next? Bubonic plague-carrying prairie dogs taking over the grounds of the State Capitol?

Colorado may not get many tourists this summer, but look at it this way: That means less crowded highways and more water for the people who actually live here.

Jenny Pettit
Denver

Get a clue: Patricia Calhoun, please don't be so clueless regarding Moussaoui's request for a change of venue.

The scenario goes something like this, and the feds know it: Move would be made by air, flying past certain points Moussaoui wants to fly past. Confederates on the ground take action that will go unnamed here, and we get "Zacarias TV" for a full week and Zacarias gets 72 virgins in paradise.

There is a larger plan at work here -- one that was scripted to be used in case of capture. The terminus for that contingency: Denver.

Chris Long
via the Internet

Editor's note: Last week, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema denied Moussaoui's request for a change of venue to the "more neutral" city of Denver, Colorado.


Like a Bad Neighbor...

Going for Goliath: Kudos to Alan Prendergast for writing an article as compelling as "Hidden Damage," in the June 27 issue. It's not often that the little people prevail over giant corporations such as State Farm. The fact that a helpless, emotionally unstable woman and a fresh-out-of-law-school attorney can defeat a giant like State Farm is truly an amazing feat. In these days of terrorism plots and wildfires, it is refreshing to read such a well-compiled, feel-good article.

Brett Bartlett
Arvada

The strong arm of the law: After fifteen years as a prosecutor, I wondered where else in the law an attorney could most often use his skills to fight for justice for victims. The answer is personal-injury practice performed properly, and Alan Prendergast's riveting "Hidden Damage" brilliantly confirmed the truth of this conclusion.

Colorado has lots of dedicated and talented lawyers laying it on the line for their injured clients. You wisely profiled two of the very best in telling the public about Greg Gold and Tom Metier's outstanding courtroom victory.

Craig Silverman
Denver

Adding insult to injury: I found "Hidden Damage" to be engrossing and stimulating. Alan Prendergast did a very nice job pulling together the voluminous material of a complicated case to form a compelling narrative. I had the experience of reading a condensed John Grisham novel. However...

Prendergast can't convince me that he himself actually believed Sunserea McClelland's claims, let alone lead me, a psychiatrist, to believe them.

In well-written fiction, the reader is made to willingly suspend disbelief. There really is a one-armed man who killed the protagonist's wife. Dead people really are talking to the little boy. The alien seen only by children really does exist.

In "Hidden Damage," on the other hand, Sunserea's claims simply involve too many holes. The disbelief-suspension contract is broken; the "heroine" is relegated to the McDonald's-coffee-spill-victim gold digger's status.

I, for one, am glad that companies like State Farm are trying to hold the line on bogus claims so that further premium increases aren't spent on society's most effective scam artists.

The following features of the story left me dubious:

How did a "very intelligent woman" (per the jury foreman) flunk out of high school unless she had significant emotional problems? Does an emotionally stable woman get married at seventeen, have two children and find herself divorced by age 21? What explains Sunserea's telling the ER physician in June that her symptoms suggestive of a head injury began only one week earlier?

Really, now, what type of injury, short of massive head trauma, could account for the severe symptom picture of migraine headaches (a vascular phenomenon), symptoms of focal seizures (brief periods of loss of time without full loss of consciousness), symptoms of generalized seizures (passing out for two hours on the bathroom floor) and tremendous cognitive decline? (One wonders how the innumerable soccer players who weekly incur greater trauma heading a fast-moving soccer ball ever survive.) Children's brains are felt to be more vulnerable to injury, yet there is nothing about any injuries to children in the car. Based on their mother's claims, one would expect they were rendered vegetative in this accident.

How, following the verdict in a trial in which she was barely able to testify, has she suddenly regained the capacity to establish an intimate relationship leading to marriage? How did such difficult-to-treat symptoms abate following the verdict? What of the admission by everyone in the case that this woman is not a reliable source of information?

Furthermore, why was no mention made in the story of the amount of money Dr. Woodcock has made over the past number of years providing expensive neurological "rehabilitation," at times for those whose only "injuries" are chronically damaged psyches and the desire for ill-gotten compensation?

One need only view the movie Primal Fear to understand how a good actor can effectively manipulate the legal system. I await a follow-up story describing Sunserea's next lawsuit for some other personal injury, coincidentally incurred as the money from the current verdict is running out.

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