This week’s letters to the editor


Charlatans and Liars

I think the Crime City columns by Wes Denham are the best columns I have ever read in my five years living here and reading Folio Weekly every week. The reason Mr. Denham’s column so unnerves Jax city leaders, JSO, the black reverend/political leadership and, of course, lawyers such as John Phillips [Backpage Editorial, “The Truth about Stand Your Ground,” April 2] is that they are so true. Jacksonville is the most dangerous city I have ever lived in. It’s too bad, though, because Jacksonville is very beautiful and has so much to offer. However, the horrible crime accepted and excused by the black community and leadership, and the JSO’s and the Duval County School Board’s acquiescence to the black community’s constant demands/excuses actually cause the mayhem which these so-called black leaders claim to want to remedy. The black “preachers” are charlatans and liars, and I enjoy Mr. Denham’s perspective on their deception.

Wes Niehaus

Editor’s note: Crime City has been discontinued as a column, though Wes Denham continues to write on crime and other matters for this publication.

Apart from Justice

This is in regard to the Fries/Crookshank trial in St. Augustine at the end of February [Crime City, “The Red Queen & the Knave of Hearts,” Wes Denham, March 12].

As you suggest, a lesser charge would have been appropriate and more “just” — after all, this was a life-and-death struggle for both men, and the idea that there was premeditation on the part of Fries tests our credulity: He had left the bar to remove himself from a difficult situation when he was struck from behind, and was then assaulted head-on when he did not use his (legal) firearm to defend himself.

At trial, the prosecutor assembled the facts into a carefully constructed and forcefully delivered tale calculated to preclude all but one conclusion and one moral choice, the intent being to “win”
the case.

But regardless of the witnesses, experts, police and inadequate crime scene and evidence-handling, there was really only one fact upon which the case turned: premeditation and intention. And in spite of the convincing story the prosecutor fabricated, the crucial fact is that no one, not even the two men, could consciously know what happened in that chaotic, fleeting, terrifying life-and-death struggle.

The judge’s deliberate, extensive instruction to the jury took more than 20 minutes. The law governing and guiding their deliberation is complex and carefully reasoned, a breathtaking exposition of the complexities and considerations required of juries.

Then 12 people meeting for the first time, who could not discuss the case during the trial, who probably had never attended a real trial, who likely had never been in an actual physical fight and who probably had never been called upon to weigh five days of testimony carefully calculated to lead them to a particular conclusion — these 12 “peers” of the accused needed less than one hour to determine that this single unfortunate event earned a lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole.

It makes me think that our legal “system” is not so much about “the law” or “justice,” but about who’s your lawyer, who are our “peers” in our fragmented society and what malice led to laws that are tough on crime and short on compassion.

A charge based on willful premeditation was not merely inappropriate — it suggests a motive apart from justice. And when that happens, my trust in those who apply the laws and the integrity of the system itself lead me to think the entire system is serving a purpose for which it is
not intended.

Michael Egelman


Is it just me, or do Gov. Scott’s new campaign ads against “Obamacare” strike anyone else as a reincarnation of an earlier effort to divert voter attention from his tainted past activities? After making almost $100 million from the healthcare industry, defrauding Medicare and escaping his corporation before the federal government agreed to reduce criminal charges to a $1.6 billion civil settlement, Scott hypocritically used his gains to finance an election campaign based largely on attacking access to the healthcare system from which he so richly profited. 

Now, after rock-bottom performance ratings, three years of environmental carnage undoing four decades of (uneven) environmental progress, the ascendancy of self-serving special interests over balanced, responsible management of public natural resources, etc., Scott pulled the same trick out of his campaign hat to divert public attention from the real issues of the campaign — the responsible management of the public trust. Scott’s past behavior and rampant abuse of the public healthcare system does not entitle him to evoke, much less malign, federal efforts to provide affordable healthcare and control the healthcare costs that he had such a hand in elevating.

Ted Mikalsen

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