By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Peter Noel, in "Getting Away With Justifiable Murder" [July 6], advances a distorted version of the truth about the tragic shooting of a seriously disturbed man by the police in 1992. His article parrots, without any skepticism the hallmark of an objective journalist allegations made by attorneys who have done their best to win a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the city. Their theory of the case has been rejected by both the trial judge and an appellate court.
While Mr. Noel briefly alludes to the fact that a "grand jury concluded that the officers were justified in killing Black," he does not tell his readers that the grand jury, composed of 23 members of our diverse Brooklyn community, heard testimony from 17 witnesses including the deceased's family members, hospital personnel, and police officers before returning their verdict.
Noel's one-sided reporting even calls into question whether the deceased wielded a knife immediately before he was shot. There should be no dispute about that fact, since the tip of the knife that Earl Black held in front of him as he charged the police was recovered from his chest during his autopsy.
Finally, Joseph Accetta's testimony that the police shot the deceased three times while he was on the ground is directly contradicted by the forensic evidence. Consequently, the appellate court found his testimony to be against the weight of evidence.
It is bewildering that a publication with the reputation of The Village Voicecontinues to be a forum for Mr. Noel's irresponsible reporting.
Charles J. Hynes
Peter Noel replies: Hynes's statement that the "tip of the knife . . . was recovered from Earl Black's chest" is not only wrong but highlights one of the most bizarre aspects of this case. What was recovered was not a knife tip, but a piece of blade from the middle of a knife! How this ended up in Black's chest defies explanation. At the civil trial, a police officer assigned to guard Black's body at the morgue could only offer that he "didn't remember" if anyone had tried to place something in the body. Also, the actions of Hynes's office were among the key factors that led a civil jury to conclude that a conspiracy had existed to suppress the facts surrounding Black's death. Joseph Accetta, a critical, disinterested witness who had already given Hynes's office a sworn, taped statement, was never asked to explain what he had seen to the grand jury. Testifying at the civil trial, he denied that Black had a knife. And regarding Hynes's claim that the trial judge "rejected" the family's version of the case: the judge, Gilbert Ramirez, denied the city's requests to set aside the verdict, and then stated that "an important public interest was served" and the family's "constitutional rights [were] vindicated" by the jury's verdict.
Squawk of the Town
When I mentioned the freighted word "scandal" to Cynthia Cotts in connection with New Yorker editor David Remnick and Don Imus [Press Clips, July 13], I was referring to the fact that Mr. Remnick, a friend and guest on the Imus program, was the recipient of a $50,000 book award from Imus, yet, as Cotts reported, refused comment on Imus's racist cracks about the Knicks.
Cynthia Cotts replies: Nobile's charge that Imus effectively bought Remnick's silence by giving him a book award is provocative, but not entirely clear-cut. It has been reported that Remnick gave the Imus money to charity, which undercuts the appearance of conflict of interest. Yet, when asked for the names of the charities last week, The New Yorker declined to comment. I chose not to publish the charge because I felt it raised more questions than it answered.
Re James Ridgeway's item " 'Weyr Witch' Rides Again" [Mondo Washington, June 22]: It's sad that there are people out there who still think about Wiccans the way that [New Right founder] Paul Weyrich does!
Weyrich must be ignorant of the fact that there are those who practice other religions than Christianity. To boycott the Army because Wiccans have joined is ridiculous. Is Weyrich afraid Christians will be exposed to forms of religion other than their own? Hello! This is America. Remember? Freedom of religion, and of speech!
As a Satanist myself I found this absurd. If Pagans, Wiccans, Satanists, atheists, etc., want to serve their country, "So mote it be!!!" It seems that some people have forgotten the important amendments that make this country unique. I suppose it's freedom of religion for Christians, not for us!
Once again, the city's most vulnerable children have found a champion in Karen Houppert ["Victimizing the Victims," June 15]. How are children protected by learning that if Dad beats up Mom, they will be punished with removal to foster care? How does it ensure "child safety" to tell children, correctly, that "your body is your own" and then subject them to strip searches looking for bruises?
The city said it had to take away more and more children in order to prevent child-abuse deaths. Giuliani even declared that "if you're arguing about whether a homemaker should be needed to return children to a parent or parents, maybe what you should be arguing about is whether you return the child at all."