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Letters to the Editor


Regarding Henry Julien's comments about Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) and the case of Gregory Bright and Earl Truvia (Letters to the Editor, June 17). Although district attorney Eddie Jordan dropped the charges June 23 and the case is resolved, there were some issues raised in Mr. Julien's letter that merit a response.

Mr. Julien asserts in his letter that an honest citizen and sole eyewitness had been a) threatened by Bright and Truvia in 1975 and b) subjected to emotional and psychological abuse by IPNO attorneys in 2002. He tried to gain credibility for his "keep 'em locked up" argument by associating this case with the current problem of getting witnesses to testify in cases of violent crime in New Orleans. By going "back to the future," Mr. Julien distorted the search for truth and unfairly characterized how we conduct our business.

Bright and Truvia are home with their loved ones after being wrongfully incarcerated for a total of almost 56 years. They are home because a criminal court judge, the Louisiana Supreme Court and the district attorney agreed with IPNO's findings, which we reached after more than 1,500 hours of investigation, 167 exhibits and 6,000 pages of documentation. These findings were that the sole eyewitness, the only "evidence" in this case, had dubious motives for coming forward, was mentally unhealthy, repeatedly perjured herself on the stand and testified to events that did not match key facts of the case. These findings clearly infer that the threats Mr. Julien described never happened. Because Bright and Truvia were never there. Because they were innocent.

When I was 7 my father was murdered, blasted in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun. My mother found him, lying in a pool of blood. I've carried this memory, along with the wounds in my soul, my entire life. Not for a second do I forget the pain and sorrow that touches those affected by violent crime. And I do not lead an organization that forgets that either.

IPNO does not go around abusing victims and state witnesses. If we did, I don't believe Victims and Citizens Against Crime would have given us an outstanding organization award, which they did on June 26. We do, however, follow the evidence and, where necessary, challenge the accuracy of witness testimony. It is not always pleasant to show why a witness has lied. But correcting injustice honorably calls forth such action.

IPNO is a public interest law nonprofit serving the wrongfully convicted. We know when we say we believe someone is innocent, we are also saying the real perpetrator is unaccounted for. And we are likely reopening wounds of grief that victims may have thought were long healed. These are awesome responsibilities that we accept with great care and reverence. We regret Mr. Julien's posture in this instance and hope that dialogue in future cases will be more constructive.
--Robert W. Hoelscher

Executive Director
Innocence Project New Orleans



I applaud the release of Gregory Bright and Earl Truvia. Given the story in your paper ("Among the Exonerated," July 1), their incarceration was a tragedy. But I am not surprised that Louisiana holds the record for the longest unjust incarceration.

It also no doubt holds the record for the longest sentences nationwide. If locking people up at record rates served as an example, Louisiana would not have one of the highest crime rates in the United States.

Yet it continues to lock up many elderly inmates who have long since paid for their crimes and do not constitute threats to society. It does so even when faced with the expense of building prisons that are nursing homes to accommodate federal mandates that prisoners receive adequate medical care -- care that is often not available to the average person.

If it hadn't been for an infusion of federal dollars at the last minute last month, Louisiana would have a budget shortfall. Yet the state continues to "over-incarcerate" at a staggering rate. Cutting the Department of Corrections budget, it seems, would gore the most sacred of cows.

Which leaves me with a question: I wonder why people in Louisiana prefer to pay for prisons instead of computers for classrooms, raises for teachers, et cetera? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

--Jodie Sinclair



I want to take this time to say, "Job well done," to New Medinah and to Gambit Weekly ("Mississippi Muslim," July 8). I am an African-American Muslim from Jackson, Miss. It is great to see that someone in the media is willing to tell the truth about our faith. It gives me great pleasure to commend Gambit Weekly on the story of New Medinah. We seldom get positive or honest media coverage.

--S. Bayyinah K. Taqwa


Thank you for that fantastic story on Smokey Robinson and the Motown Miracles ("Miracle Man," July 1). It was "down home" for me. It warmed my aging heart. Smokey said it right, "As a boy in Detroit, at that time, you were either in a gang or a group." Thank God for the Motown kids that were such an inspiration.

I was the inner-city youth director for the downtown YMCA in Detroit. Those seven years shaped my future, too.

We started 17 youth centers in downtown Detroit using church buildings that were mostly unused except on Sunday. We also picked the younger kids up at school after classes before they could hit the streets. In the summer months, the Detroit News funded a nine-week camp for us. We took 150 kids out to Island Lake recreation area where they could cut loose in a more wholesome way.

Wayne State University education majors did their 100 hours of practical fieldwork with us. Those who survived really learned what it means to be an urban schoolteacher. It also made an urban minister out of me.

Thanks to you and thanks to Prof. Nick Spitzer for a great story.

--The Rev. Bill Brown
Trinity Christian Community

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