Letters to the Editor

From the week of September 12, 2002

Domestic Quarrels

Bench them: Thanks for Alan Prendergast's excellent "System Failure," in the August 29 issue. Our moronic judges should be horsewhipped, then kicked off the bench. It makes one recall Dickens's character Mr. Buymble and his terse statement: "If the law says that, then the law is an ass, Sir." Indeed, it still is -- 150 years later.

Frank Galmish
Denver

Just say no:As usual, Westword hits the forefront of reporting in this community. And Mr. Prendergast, you are superb.

I've been tangled in the court system in Jefferson County for years -- since 1994, to be exact. While my case didn't have near the severity of this case, it amazes me how the courts which you turn to for resolution (as it is the last step) continually disappoint. And they affect your life!

I will pull the plug for "no" on all the judges in this election.

Scott Pfund
Littleton

Judging the judge: It's a shame Chanda Johnson-Richardson wasn't given any respect as a victim or person. Judge Robert Crew should be held accountable for letting such a hideous crime go unpunished. He had discretion; he could just as well have pulled the trigger himself.

Susan DeFreitas, in her effort to smooth things over for the courts, can't seriously believe this new device (the GPS monitoring system that was introduced) would have stopped Michael Garrett. It's doubtful that the judge would have even considered letting him wear it.

What's worse is, Garrett is walking the streets after taking the life of a great mother, daughter, friend and an asset to life itself. He brutally put her to rest, and Chanda in no way deserved this. I feel as though a bullet ripped through me, as well. The Denver judicial system, the judge and the killer cannot justify or imagine the horror brought to Chanda's family and friends, nor our hurt and disappointment in the system.

This is our famous court system, with its devastating letdowns. We can only pray it doesn't keep happening.

Vivian Matthews
Denver

Watch what happens:Two tools are essential to effectively deal with incidents of domestic violence: The victim has a restraining order in place with a workable safety plan, and the community systems that interface with domestic-violence perpetrators hold perpetrators accountable for their abusive, violent behavior.

Success depends on both of these elements working together. While the system in Denver is overloaded with thousands of cases of domestic-violence incidents a year, it is vitally important that the criminal-justice system achieve a level of containment that tolerates no deviation from policies and procedures in place to hold a perpetrator accountable for his actions. It is also necessary that those who work to achieve justice understand the dynamics involved in abusive relationships. Control and manipulation go a long way with a perpetrator. It does not end at the front door of the home. It not only extends to such public arenas as churches, schools and places of employment, but also to the court system. Domestic violence reaches near epidemic numbers and can only be eradicated through the collaboration of the victim, the community and the criminal-justice system.

Project Safeguard is a nonprofit organization that aids women who are victims of domestic violence. Our legal advocates are available to assist women in obtaining restraining orders in Denver, Arapahoe and Adams county courts. In addition, Project Safeguard provides clinics for women who are victims of domestic violence to assist in filing for a divorce without an attorney.

Project Safeguard's CourtWatch program works to hold the criminal-justice system accountable to victims of domestic violence. This program, funded entirely by grants, is maintained by a dedicated handful of volunteers who are present in Arapahoe and Denver county courts. These volunteers observe a variety of court proceedings, making notes on victim-safety issues. Armed with these courtroom observations, CourtWatch works to educate judges, prosecutors, police and other system personnel on domestic-violence issues ranging anywhere from how to determine the primary aggressor in an arrest situation to victim behavior when trapped in an abusive relationship. Due to limited volunteer resources, CourtWatch was not present for the eventful July 31, 2001, proceeding in which Ms. Richardson was ejected from the court. It is with deep regret that CourtWatch did not learn of this or any of the other tragic courtroom proceedings until after she was murdered. It is with the greatest insistence that CourtWatch urges everyone in the criminal-justice system to work towards a strict compliance policy of containment for perpetrators of domestic violence and, where necessary, to educate themselves on the dynamics of abusive relationships. Many other women and children depend on the justice system to keep them safe.

Susan DeFreitas
Project Safeguard

Male call: In "System Failure," Alan Prendergast chronicles a domestic-violence case involving a murderous predator by the name of Michael Garrett. In this article, however, it seems that Prendergast is suggesting that each male who comes before a domestic-violence court deserves to have the so-called book thrown at him. Indeed, Michael Garrett was and is deserving of severe punishment, but that does not mean that every male in domestic-violence court is guilty of what he is accused of, much less of committing the crazed actions of the likes of Michael Garrett.

If you would speak to law professionals specializing in domestic-violence cases, you would know that Denver authorities are making arrests on mere he-said, she-said allegations. Unluckily for the male detainees, even if their wife/girlfriend is arrested at the same time, the authorities will usually drop the case against the female and pursue the male. This policy is common knowledge in the Denver Public Defender's Office. Is there any justice or fairness in that kind of policy?

Apparently this policy, and to some degree Prendergast's article, is based on a myth that only women are victimized by domestic violence. Men are, as well; they just do not report it.

Mike Griffin
via the Internet

Editor's note: "Hitting Them Where They Live," our four-part series on domestic violence originally published in June 1998, discusses Denver's controversial program at length. It's archived at www.westword.com.


Binge and Purge

Active imagination:Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Why Spy?" in the September 5 issue:

Perhaps the reason the Denver Police Department didn't have anything to give her from the "purged" file is because the file is still "active." Just a thought. Every report contains the same precise language calculated to give a false sense of security: "No information from our purged files to give you." Did she happen to ask if there was anything in the active files?

Bill Nelsch
Denver

Bum's rush:I got to police headquarters around 5:15 p.m. last Tuesday for the ACLU rally, discovered no one was outside, and went inside, where I saw Mark Silverstein and a bunch of other people patiently waiting. I had already downloaded the information-request form and the group-representation affidavit form off the DPD Web site and had them filled out and notarized when I walked in the building. So I got in line, filed my forms and waited. Suddenly the reception area started filling up. The place was packed; I can't imagine what it must have been like for ordinary citizens on police business walking into that. I saw a bunch of peace activists, the Tyranny Response Team, Steve Schweitzberger, Latino/Latina activists. It was probably one of the most comprehensive conglomerations of activists ever to appear in one spot in Denver.

I got my results at 6:15 p.m.: no files. I had filed on behalf of myself and the no-longer-active AIDS activist group ACT UP/Denver, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP was quite active in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The group held rallies, demonstrations and die-ins, sang AIDS carols at the governor's mansion, picketed public-health buildings. No files, says the DPD. I was bummed: What kind of activist am I if the group I was with didn't have files with the police?

But unlike Patricia Calhoun, I don't think those pre-1999 records that weren't transferred to the new computerized database were turned into landfill. Police agencies, whether their initials are KGB, FBI or DPD, have several things in common. One of them is a fanatical desire to collect and maintain records on groups and organizations not to their liking. Another is a desire to never destroy any information they do create. I think those "purged" files are sitting in a basement storage room, still intact. Unfortunately, short of a major lawsuit with high-powered attorneys, we'll probably never know for sure. And I'll guarantee you that you, me and a host of others are in those files.

Thanks for Calhoun's columns on the police spy files.

Peter Gross
Denver

Unsafe at any speed:On November 5, I will vote for myself for the sixth time. Having run for mayor of Denver twice, city council twice and the state legislature, I figured there was a chance I had my name listed in the infamous "spy files."

But for designing a safety holster? As candidate for Jefferson County sheriff, I have demonstrated how my Mena-Monitor can automatically dial a cellular phone to provide instant hands-free communications and location by global satellite when an officer's gun is drawn in an emergency. I have shown how the holster can also be programmed for audible alarm if unauthorized access occurs to a gun stored at home.

I will gladly demonstrate my working prototype to media. Lives can be saved. This is not about selling a product, only selling an idea.

Steve Schweitzberger
Littleton


Home Is Where the Hurt Is

Agree to disagree:I was inspired by Julie Jargon's "Alienation Nation," in the August 22 issue. My wife of eighteen years divorced me a year ago for reasons that I have never known. I was very hurt and angry, and still am. Our daughter is only eight. Yes, we started late; that is another thing that baffles me. She didn't figure out that she didn't want to be married until after we had a child. The divorce process lasted almost two years and was very acrimonious. It still is.

I agreed to "guidelines visitation" in a marriage settlement agreement, so there was never a divorce trial. I did so because my lawyer insisted that I would probably end up with this situation anyway, and going to court would cost us both more money. I would like to try to convince my ex that fifty-fifty would be best for our daughter in the long run; she is already having troubles in school, both in learning and discipline. These are common traits in children of divorce.

I love my daughter very much and would like to be a bigger part of her life; I don't want the inertia of the past years' status quo to be used as an acknowledgment that I agree with this arrangement.

Glenn Markos
Venice, Florida

Son damage: Thank you for the informative article on the divorce situation in this state. I felt Julie Jargon was non-biased in her report and showed some real problems that exist in the courts when a family splits. I have spent the past two years fighting for my son through the courts and have been treated like a criminal. Accusations are thrown around by my ex and believed constantly by the people placed in charge of finding out what is in the accusations and getting down to the division of my son's time, only at a considerable expense.

I found it interesting that she followed a case that occurred in Douglas County: I, too, have my divorce proceedings through Douglas County and must say that fathers are not listened to by the courts or the child advocates. My soon-to-be ex and the courts would rather I disappear and just pay child support so I can be labeled as a "deadbeat dad." It's difficult to accept this when you were home every day since the birth of your child and now are forced to be a visitor and pay money as if you victimized someone. The only victims are the children. Children need both parents, not driven-away parents.

Again, I appreciate your article on this growing problem. It's unfortunate that it will take years of legislation to improve the process of divorce when children are involved.

Darren Dennstedt
Denver


X Marks the Spat

Cover your children's ears:Regarding Michael Roberts's "Good Sex, Bad Sex," in the August 29 issue:

I find it hypocritical that a cluster of stations that air sex-themed shows like The Zoo, Loveline, the KOA morning "news" program and Lewis & Floorwax considers ads from sex-themed stores to be inappropriate. To quote Clear Channel's Don Martin from a previous Roberts column: "It's the year 2002. Give me a break."

John Ravetti
Colorado Springs


The Skyline's the Limit

Park place:Regarding Michael Paglia's well-intentioned but somewhat wrongheaded defense of Skyline Park ("Showdown at Skyline," August 29):

Lawrence Halprin's design for Skyline around 1970 shares much of the same design merit shown by other Halprin works -- like Ira's Fountain in Portland and Freeway Park in Seattle -- in its evocation of natural form, its boldness, and its attention to detail. Skyline, though somewhat of the sunken living-room school of park design then in vogue, addressed a problematic site (long and narrow, with five lanes of traffic rushing by, in a then-disused part of town) in a creative and picturesque way. Since then, the neighborhood surrounding the park and American notions of urban design have changed. Where we once saw streets as grim channels meant exclusively for conducting car traffic, we realize now that they are as essential to the life of the public realm as parks and that parks that turn their backs on the street are likely to be relatively unused.

Michael Paglia evinces surprise that all the consultants invited to make recommendations for Skyline came to the same conclusion: that the grade of the park should be raised to that of the surrounding street. While he is probably correct that the styleof the park makes little difference to its function, he ignores the fact, obvious to all the consultants and to any first-year design student, that the formof the park, namely its bunker-like character, is a serious design flaw having implications for its use. Generally speaking, sunken plazas tend not to work. To be widely and democratically used, a city park needs to be visually and psychologically accessible, not hidden behind walls, berms and shrubbery. It is also, contrary to Paglia's water-use red herring, a perfectly appropriate place for the city to use a bit of water on a patch of turf for the enjoyment of the large and diverse crowd who would enjoy it.

In addition to raising the grade of much of the park, one move that could show the city is serious about Skyline would be for the nice engineers at Parking and Traffic to give a couple of traffic lanes in Arapahoe Street back to the park. They will protest that it can't be done; don't believe them. But at the least, before we do anything else, let's take down those signs that now deface the fountains and read "Do not deface monuments." Those crappy placards are a far greater insult to Halprin's legacy than the worthwhile efforts of serious and intelligent people to improve downtown for everyone, including those who snipe at their ideas from the sidelines.

Grayson Baur
Denver


Party On

Minor concerns: After reading the three letters responding to Michael Robert's August 22 "Minor Threat," I was encouraged and hopeful that someone at Westword would take notice. Personally, I am so sick of Republicrats (as Ralph Nader dubbed the growing number of unrecognizable Democrats in his perceptive new book, Crashing the Party), that I am amazed by the media's token coverage (if that!) of real alternatives to the same old political bullshit. How long will it take the media to allow us to see and hear from those who have something new and pro-active to say, instead of being forced to choose, once again, the least obnoxious (and potentially dangerous) of two boring candidates?

I believe that more and more people are waking up to some political realities, including the fact that We the People are not being represented by the status-quo, do-nothing politicians we continue to vote into office. My time, energy and votes will continue to support these alternative candidates, and I would encourage all non-voting political dropouts to do the same. We can get representation, and we are entitled to accountability instead of false promises. And we will be heard, with or without responsible media coverage, so long as we remember that we are the government!

Richard Trupp
Denver

Seeing is disbelieving:The politicians: When you see their mouths open and their lips protrude, you can expect to get dumped on. Don't be one of the glass-eyed mushrooms with their mouths open. Haven't you heard all this shit before? You also have to listen to their gestures, twitches, nods, jerks, blinks and tics. This is the sugarcoating. They use contributions to abuse us with more irritating ads. Give us a break!

For survival, use the mute button, channel selector, off switch and trips to the fridge and potty. They are trying to see how much shit they can put us through.

Hang in there until November, Joe and Joan Sixpack. You can make it. Save your money.

John F. Sisson
Arvada


Publish or Parrots

Squawking 101: What's the difference between writing "news" and "commentary"? Well, the former is just the facts, man, and the latter is opinion. But the cardinal rule of Good Professional Journalism -- objectivity -- is so regularly and purposefully ignored by members of the Fourth Estate that it's kinda hard to imagine a news article that doesn't include left-slanted opinion. And Westword's September 5 Off Limits certainly didn't disappoint in this regard.

A news reporter, or his editor, can (and often does) clean up the language of a quote. For example, if the lady marching for a woman's right to kill babies screams, "We don't gotta let you bastards shove yer god up our cunts!" the reporter will tell us she said, "Keep your religion out of my uterus! Please."

It's only right in a family publication. Unless the person you're quoting is a conservative; then strictly accurate quoting is a dandy way of making him look like a stuttering imbecile. For conservatives, the Good Reporter makes damn sure that any and every crudity (Is the GOP candidate picking his nose? I smell a Pulitzer!), every misspoken word (Did he say "noocuular!?" The president is a moron!), and each misspelerization ("potatoe"!? Stop the presses!) is prominently noted, and even emphasized in snide asides. That's what Off Limits did by noting a misspelling by a letter-writer who opposes the unfathomable insensitivity, ignorance and outright stupidity of Colorado College president Richard Celeste in bringing a Palestinian shill here to commemorate 9/11. Westword sees nothing wrong with that, of course, but misplacing a consonant or three in the name of a German now nearly sixty years dead is sure evidence of idiocy.

If, dear class, you have an issue with an issue, leave it to the issues columns. When reporting news, it's a good idea to, well, stick to news. Besides, you're an edjumacated journalist, ain'tcha? If you want to slam somebody for their position, do it in the opinonation columns, and if you really want to slam them, find a better point than mispeling. You just make yourself look like the lockstep, knee-jerk left-liberal parrot you are, otherwise.

JM Schell
Arvada

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