I truly enjoyed "Where the Sidewalk Ends" [by Jim Simmon, November 21]. It was interesting, funny, well written and to the point. To loosely paraphrase America's forefathers, let me add that "... people willing to give up a little freedom to gain a little security usually end up losing both, and don't deserve either one." To maintain our faulty democracy, we must always be watchful when the power of the government transcends reasonable boundaries and infringes on the rights of the individual.
But in the spirit of good, unbiased journalism, I feel you forgot to look objectively at all the facts. In our zeal for preserving the rights of the individual, we cannot, and must not, let our righteousness make us overlook fairness. We live under a poetic piece of legislation called a constitution, and we create laws hoping to protect the majority of the people. But that's not enough.
Until we learn to love and help one another, we'll need somebody to enforce these rules. To do this we hire men -- strong men, both physically and morally -- with guns to protect the weak and preserve the law that we created. We want them to be perfect -- to deal, day in and day out, with the human trash our society creates and then dumps, in some poor forgotten subdivision if possible, so we can drive around it.
I don't want that job, do you? Officer Donald Ray Miller does. Where does the sidewalk end for him?
Officer Miller was not in the doughnut shop having coffee with the guys. He was in the middle of a tough neighborhood, a few blocks away from two schools, making sure that the pimps and the drug dealers don't get the kids into more trouble than they already have. He was making sure that people like you and I come home to the same house we left, that we can feel safer walking our dogs or jogging along Allen Parkway.
Did it occur to you that maybe our Canadian friend walked out of "a decrepit area" with only his morale bruised because there was a police car nearby? Could he have wandered in Harlem or Watts and lived to talk about it?
You were right to tell Officer Miller: You cannot and must not let your zeal for preserving and upholding the law let you overlook the fact that people are innocent until proven guilty, that it is possible that a white Canadian tourist decided to walk from downtown to the Galleria, and it's also possible that he could get lost and wander onto West Webster Street to run into two drug dealers without intending to make a buy. Next time, give him the benefit of the doubt. A ride to Westheimer would be nice also.
Nevertheless, you forgot to tell Officer Miller that we sleep better knowing he is out there, doing the job we hire him to do, carrying a gun so we don't have to, making the inner city a place we can all be proud of and enjoy to the fullest. For this I would like to thank Officer Miller and tell him to keep up the good work.
P. Eduardo Pedrana
I look forward each Thursday to a new issue of the Press, one of the high points of my week. Recently, however, I was disgusted by Brian Wallstin's revisionist, dishonest and misleading article on one of the convicted murderers of an innocent young man, Paul Broussard, whose only crime was stopping to give a group of young men directions to a bar in Montrose ["Gayland's Choice," November 14].
This piece of garbage was revisionist because, by design, it painted the tragic incident as a fight between two groups of young men just having some innocent, inebriated fun, rather than the premeditated, cowardly act of murderous violence that it was.
It was revisionist in the way Holocaust deniers are revisionists. Randle "didn't see what went on" the way the Germans who stood by and jeered didn't see the old Jewish men being beaten in front of their burning synagogue on Kristallnacht. It is revisionist to ridicule the labeling of this brutal act of group violence as a "so-called hate crime," an incident of "gay-bashing." These labels describe a pervasive pattern of cruel violence against innocent people all across our country. If a group of young white men accosted three black men, beating and stabbing them, yelling racial epithets, killing one (or more prosaic, lynching them), would Wallstin call it a "so-called hate crime," a "lynching?"
The article was dishonest because it was full of lies of omission; it left out the important facts that characterized the event in which Randle admitted his participation. This was not a fight, as was stated in the second paragraph of this excuse for journalism. Civilized human beings do not fight by attacking others with boards embedded with nails, beating, then stabbing one to death. "Dillon took the first swing." The lie of omission -- what he was swinging. "The fight was on."
No! The murder was on!
The piece described in detail the foolish pranks of a bunch of skaters at a rice tower, but left out the detailed statements by Paul's companions that night, the homophobic slurs, the fear, the shame they felt at running away and saving themselves, leaving their friend to die. Had they not run away, Randle admitted, he would have "beat the crap out of them."
It was so misleading, so steeped in innuendo, so clever in its presentation. Wallstin emphasized poor Randle's innocent lack of involvement, that he was just "along for the ride." Then he slips in Randle's admission of chasing after one of the survivors to beat him, while implying that this damning confession was part of a naive mistake in having testified without an attorney. He emphasizes the gay community's all-powerful influence, operating still today, "almost three years" after criminal proceedings were closed. What -- this makes us bloodthirsty animals because we can't forget what happened to an innocent banker just because he was gay?
How can Wallstin imply that Randle was victimized by a criminal justice system when he confessed his involvement, he pleaded guilty in court, and, like all criminals in our society, he paid the price? In this case, the price was to follow a set of simple rules for ten years. However arbitrary were those rules, Randle did not follow them, so he paid a bigger price. Perhaps this is the best way to teach someone to follow the rules. Rules like, "We don't stand around and watch friends beat an unarmed person half to death with two-by-fours embedded with nails, then finish the job with kicks and stabbings." Or, "We don't chase after fleeing victims with the intent of beating the crap out of them." Or, "When we are caught participating in some animal act such as this, and we are made to face up to it, we show remorse."
Having read so many of your "exposes" over the years about things I knew little about, and having digested this piece of trash about something I do know about, I will never again accept what is written in your paper as being presumably true. I know now how easily you can twist the facts to meet your ends. In this case, your ends seem to be the denial of gay-bashing, the justification of brutal violence against gays, and the trumpeting of the "cause" of an admitted felon.
Name withheld by request
Brian Wallstin replies: After several weeks of investigation, HPD homicide detectives determined that the murder of Paul Broussard was not "gang-related" or "hate-crime related," according to the officers' incident report. That might explain why assistant district attorney Mike Anderson agreed to plea-bargained sentences of deferred adjudication for Gayland Randle and four of the nine other defendants in Broussard's killing, despite pressure from Nancy Rodriguez, gay activists and victims' rights advocates to try the cases and obtain prison terms for all ten.
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As for the letter writer's claim that my story "omitted" the information that Broussard was beaten by a nail-studded board: While the story did point out that the prosecution set out to prove Broussard and his friends were attacked by a gang "swinging nail-studded two-by-fours," the accounts of the assault given the following day by Broussard's companions, Cary Anderson and Richard Delauney, made no mention that the attackers had brandished any kind of weapon, according to the HPD incident report. Two of the defendants, Jon Buice and Brian Spake, testified in some detail against their companions, but both denied that anyone involved in the attack on Paul Broussard had used a board. Finally, defense attorneys interviewed for the story said that the prosecution never had any evidence to support the allegation. When asked about it, the assistant D.A. told the Press that Broussard appeared to have suffered a puncture wound on his back that was not inflicted by Buice's pocket knife.
One explanation for the widespread belief that a nail-studded board was used on Paul Broussard is that two men told police a few days after the murder that they had been threatened by a group of youths on the same night that Broussard was killed, and that one of the attackers was carrying a bat or a piece of wood. However, the ten defendants charged in Broussard's murder were never found to have any involvement in that other incident.
Gayland Randle never "confessed" to Paul Broussard's murder. Rather, he accepted a sentence of deferred adjudication on the recommendation of his attorney, who feared the heavy publicity and charged emotions surrounding the case might influence a jury more than the facts. Among the more relevant and established facts is that Anderson's and Delauney's statements reflect that they did not see a black man among their attackers that night.
Randle says he never touched Paul Broussard, but has never denied that he was present when an especially ugly and deplorable crime was committed. If he and his family have a "cause," it's to understand why that automatically makes him an "animal.