Johnnie and Dilbert

Johnnie and Dilbert

A bona fide expert: I appreciate the interest that Wendy Grossman and the Houston Press have shown in the plight of my client Johnnie Bernal ["An Absolute Maybe," August 8], however I am somewhat disturbed by what I believe are some misrepresentations that were made in the story.

By failing to point out that Mr. Ernest was the ballistics expert for many years for Tarrant County and instead simply referring to him as a consultant diminishes his impact as an expert witness. At the time he gave his opinion in the Bernal case, Mr. Ernest was employed by Tarrant County for seven years as its ballistics expert and primarily testified for the prosecution. Before that he worked in the Georgia Bureau of Investigations ballistics lab for 13 years. He has also been certified by the FBI Academy. Mr. Baldwin's curriculum vitae pales by comparison.

Second, if I must be described in the story as the model for the Boss character in the Dilbert cartoons, I believe that the entire story needs to be told. I posed for a few funny pictures for a young photographer many years ago. I wore my hair longer and brushed straight up in two spikes and a suit that was much too small. (Like Vanessa Williams, I was young and naive when this all happened.) She sold one of the images to a stock photo agency. The image was used in about 25 print ads, several posters for computer products and an album cover. After the picture started appearing around the country in technology ads, the artist who draws Dilbert changed the appearance of the Boss character to what it is today. If one compares the two images, there is a striking similarity that, like the false testimony of Mr. Baldwin, is hard to overlook. What I find most puzzling about the reference, however, is that it was even included in a story about prosecutorial corruption and a young man sitting on death row for a crime he did not commit.

Robert M. Rosenberg

Sister mercy: I am so glad that someone has finally been able to do a story on Johnnie's case. In this life that he has now he is not the same tall guy that my sister fell in love with. Of course, besides being with Leticia he was also with my sister Anna, and she ran away with him the same summer of the murder. As a matter of fact, my parents had just gotten her back a few days before the shooting. He even came by our house looking for her, just to make sure she was okay, but my parents wouldn't let her see him.

It's a sad thing that this whole situation occurred and that Lee lost his life, but why should another innocent person lose his life? Isn't it enough that Lee is gone? I mean, the real killer should be the one suffering and expecting death -- not Johnnie. I know that if he had done it, then he would have run and never returned, but he didn't. Lil' G did, and that is something that you can't deny. I just know that when my sister asked him to tell her the truth, he did, and he said that he put that on all his love for her that he didn't do it.

He was a great guy even though he was playing my sister and so forth. My sister moved on and had a child and Johnnie would help her with her problems and stuff. We still keep in touch, but with his case being so messed up to begin with, we just pray he gets out soon so that he can be the Johnnie Bernal Jr. that we remember.

Thanks for taking the time to do the article, and I just pray that he looked okay and not sickly.

Jessica Morfin

Taking ExCEPtion

Condemning the coverage: The Houston Press has published false and misleading information in an article regarding Community Education Partners ["Million-Dollar Babies," by Margaret Downing, June 27].

The allegation that CEP kept a large number of students beyond their initial placement is not supported by enrollment figures: 1,763 HISD students were enrolled at CEP at the end of 2001-02; 3,404 HISD students were served by CEP during 2001-02.

Were your allegations true that a large number of students were being held for long periods beyond their original placement, the ending enrollment figures would have been far greater.

As the end of the school year approached, HISD, pursuant to guidelines and state statutes that give them the opportunity to exercise their own discretion, made a decision on a case-by-case basis to allow students to remain at CEP to complete the semester in order to finish their courses and earn credits. Each parent whose child had completed their assignment to CEP was given the option, again pursuant to existing guidelines and discretionary authority, of having their child complete the year at CEP or return to their home school.

At the end of the fifth grading period, 98 students remained with parental consent. During the last grading period of the year, 150 students completed the final few weeks of the school year at CEP. On the extended placement of students, 56 remained at CEP for one and a half to two years with parental consent; seven students remained at CEP for two to two and a half years with parental consent.

Careful journalism suggests that someone from the Press should have made an effort to contact CEP to obtain actual numbers regarding enrollment, length of stay or to verify the inaccuracies regarding core academic and elective courses offered by the school.

Randle Richardson, CEP CEO
Nashville, Tennessee

Editor's note: The column in fact does not refer to "large" numbers of students; it even quotes an HISD spokeswoman as saying only a small number of students were involved for three years. As stated in the column, the Texas Education Agency disagreed with Richardson's claim of "existing guidelines and discretionary authority" -- there was no student code of conduct provision for voluntary extensions this past year; HISD approved one for the new school year, only at the urging of TEA. The column focused on a dispute between the school district and TEA, and relied on HISD and TEA for available figures on that dispute.


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