In Defense of Dr. Johnson
After reading your article about the controversy surrounding Dr. Elizabeth Johnson and the results of her DNA tests ["Blood Feud," by Steve McVicker, May 30], I felt compelled to comment. I have been a practicing forensic biologist since 1984; my specialties are DNA analysis and bloodstain pattern interpretation. What is happening to Dr. Johnson is a disgrace. Her advice has been sought and utilized by forensic laboratories throughout Texas. She has earned both personal and professional respect from her colleagues.
The primary duty of any forensic analyst is to attempt to do all that is scientifically possible to exclude an individual as the contributor of the biological evidence undergoing examination. It is only after failing to do so that we say we have a possible inclusion. In fact, the nationwide average of exclusions involving DNA evidence is 30 percent.
District attorneys who use the power of DNA testing to obtain convictions must also be willing to accept those results that can indicate that they have the wrong suspect. The Harris County District Attorney's Office is at best being very foolish in rejecting a DNA test result they don't like. It gives the impression that they are willing to "shop around" until they find a result they can use. In this case, even that strategy appears to have backfired on them when a second lab verified Dr. Johnson's results. Given the fact that a hair "match" is a much more subjective and less reliable test than DNA makes one wonder why they did not have the hair re-analyzed. Dr. Johnson is too good of a scientist and a human being to be anything less than totally forthcoming when doing an analysis and interpreting its results. She is also too good a scientist to perform a technique that has not been fully validated according to proper protocol. Unless the Harris County D.A.'s Office finds hard, unquestionable evidence of wrongdoing on Dr. Johnson's part, then they will have their hands full in undoing the damage they have done. Not only to her, but to themselves.
Joseph E. Warren
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In Defense of Dr. Johnson
Your article on Dr. Gerald Johnson ["Cut and Run," by Brian Wallstin, June 20] was chock full of negatives but flagrantly failed to point out the wonderfully big heart that this man possesses. It did not state that one evening, upon exiting his office, he witnessed a purse snatching, took action and apprehended the criminal. He was interviewed by TV news and lauded for his heroic efforts. An attempt at self-promotion? I don't think so!
The article did not state that Dr. J. (as those of us who know the real Dr. Johnson call him) has taken out leaking silicone implants at no charge on occasion. Nor did it elaborate on the perfect reconstructions of accident victims that I've heard rumored he did, at whatever the patient could afford.
Since 1980, I've watched this man invent and patent the endoscopic breast implant, which gives a woman new breasts without scars. And myself, well, after having a botched preventative mastectomy in Atlanta, Dr. J is giving me breasts that are once again Playboy perfect.
Many, many doctors face malpractice suits in the course of their practicing. Doctoring is not an exact or perfected science. Anyone can make a mistake, if that is what happened. Why do you think they call it "practicing" medicine?
Tory Lee Hall
Unfortunately, I am not surprised by Republican Congressman Steve Stockman's attempt to turn Tim Fleck into a frightening symbol of the "liberal media." ["Into the Den of Stockmania," June 13]. I guess that Mr. Stockman supposes that a reporter trying to secure an interview about a suspicious campaign location amounts to a plot by the left-leaning media to intimidate and confuse the taxpaying citizens of our country. The sad part about the whole escapade is that voters might actually buy Mr. Stockman's story.
The Lion's Tail
I found "Man to Man" [Art, by Shaila Dewan, June 6] to be "cute" in many ways, but the lack of factual information appalls me. It was damaging to art criticism in Houston and to art history as a whole. I don't know where Ms. Dewan got the information for her review, but when it involves an artist's personal life and not his art, it becomes merely gossip.
Let me narrow my point to the third paragraph, which focused on my work in the show. When five of seven sentences totally misrepresent the basic facts, it makes me wonder why Ms. Dewan was more interested in the sexual orientation of the four artists than in looking at the work, reading the titles or checking facts by simply looking at the artists' bios.
First, I do not have AIDS. I have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. For years I have been struggling to control this virus, and with the support of family, friends and the ever-so-fragile health insurance system, I'm doing just that. I have never heard the sports press say "Magic Johnson has AIDS" because he has HIV. Teaching in Houston for the past 12 years leaves a long trail of former students whom I greatly admire. They needn't be misled regarding my medical condition.
Second, the "dragon whose tail is tipped by a penis" is a winged lion in the style of the Warring States Period (Sung Dynasty circa. 960-1279 A.D.) and not "a metaphor" for my illness. I'm not that clever. The Chinese used the penis-shaped tail 1,000 years ago on this winged lion for reasons I have not determined. Your analysis is irresponsible speculation and is probably libelous. Most certainly it is rude. You only perpetuate the myths surrounding the AIDS pandemic by assuming that my penis had anything to do with my contracting HIV. Do you remember Ryan White? What about Mary Fisher or the thousands of children on the streets of Mexico City or the North African families who have lost three or four generations to AIDS? Comments like yours are similar to the pathetic rhetoric we hear from the religious right.
Wake up Houston Press. Your writers should not be so flippant when it comes to enlightening the public on the truths surrounding the possibilities of contracting HIV. Those "disembodied cells in the sky" are Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors, as referred to in the title of the painting and in the information supplied to the writer by the gallery. Had Ms. Dewan been a little knowledgeable, she would have known that there are no drug therapies for AIDS; these therapies treat only HIV. Specific opportunistic diseases are required to develop AIDS.
Everyone has a right to an opinion, but when the facts are so far off the entire editorial staff becomes suspect. This does not serve the public very well. You can call it "conceit" if you wish, but remember that Weekend Gallery, like so many other smaller galleries, deserves credit for getting the pulse of a community. Also, the term the "Houston School" is not a term used by me, but about me, and it means nothing to me.
By the way, I have never been to China in my 40 years; maybe I'll make it there before I reach my "mid- to late forties."
Richard E. Fluhr
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