I am writing to express my appreciation for Matthew Thorsen's photography. I can usually recognize a "Thorsen" while flipping through the pages, whether it's an interview subject, a plate of food, or an artsy or scenic shot, and it generally gets me to stop and read the article. [In the March 9 issue], I feel that his photographs of the three women featured in the article headlined "Taking the Lead" reached another level. These portraits could easily be in a gallery. And, more importantly, they provided a sense of dignity and grandeur befitting the good work these women are doing in Vermont. Thanks again for publishing Thorsen's outstanding photos week after week!
[Re "The Prosecution Never Rests," March 9]: The Vermont Department of Health revealed this week that 53 people died in 2015 from heroin laced with fentanyl, which is highly lethal. On February 2, 2016, a 26-year old Bennington man died from an overdose of spiked heroin that his dealer knew was poisoned. State's Attorney Erica Marthage has charged the pusher with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail. Apparently in Vermont dealers are rarely charged, but one woman found guilty did receive a suspended sentence, and another is facing two years for selling heroin to his roommate, "who took 24 hours to die on the premises."
Your reporter was quick to find several of prosecutor Erica Marthage's legal and political adversaries to criticize her harsh judgment. One such former defense attorney, now retired in Arizona, is so enlightened on the theories of criminal justice as concerns the "understanding of human frailty" that he now "leaves water in the desert" for people illegally crossing into the United States.
County prosecutors are elected officials. I encourage readers to ask your own county prosecutor whether a person who knowingly sells poisoned heroin that kills someone should face 20 years or get a suspended sentence. My vote is with Marthage.
[Re "The Prosecution Never Rests," March 9]: It is forgivable that reporter Mark Davis isn't up to speed on constitutional law — but the same cannot be said for Bennington's wing-nut prosecutor Erica Marthage.
In 1969's Johnson v. Avery, the Supreme Court clearly established that inmates have the right to provide legal assistance to one another. Marthage's vindictive ignorance is an embarrassment. Overall she reminds me of smug, arrogant, famously tough-on-crime, now-discredited former Texas prosecutor John Bradley, whose next job ended up being attorney for a third-world banana republic.
If you agree with Marthage, I urge you to checkout Right on Crime, an organization founded by core GOP conservatives, and then follow up with Michael Moore's newest film, Where to Invade Next. As you'll learn (from across the political spectrum), simple-minded spite and fear are no substitute for actually being smart on crime.
I too have spoken to Sen. Dick Sears, former commissioner of corrections Andy Pallito and Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan — all three of whom are quoted in the article. In my opinion, the solution isn't reviving the sentencing commission but a proportional tax on Bennington and any other district that chooses not to curb the cost of its criminal justice system. The whole of Vermont is subsidizing Marthage's power-tripping misuse of office. Bennington's voters ought to pick up the tab for excessive incarceration and other shortsighted, counterproductive policies.
["The Prosecution Never Rests," March 9,] about Bennington County's historic and disproportionate incarceration rates, screams for the need for real criminal justice reform in Vermont. Perhaps if state's attorneys; offices had to pay the cost to incarcerate people, they might change their retributive, theologically driven and politically motivated mind-sets. We can no longer afford the luxury of using expensive prison beds just to teach a lesson and use that resource solely for the purpose of protecting the public. The whole criminal justice system needs to adopt a restorative approach to wrongdoing that heals the victim, restores the community and holds the perpetrator accountable. The current system does none of that.
With Primaries to Go...
This is a letter to express my extreme discontent with the way Paul Heintz characterized the Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign in his Fair Game column ["'Here in Youngstown,'" March 16]. Heintz says, "...but one thing was clear: [Hillary] Clinton was on track to ... turn her sizable lead into an insurmountable one." If Heintz wants to tuck tail and run, that is his prerogative. However, this gross skewing of the circumstances shouldn't be allowed in a publication that claims to be about fair reporting.
The truth is that the Sanders campaign is going strong and, despite the losses last Tuesday, some of the most important primaries are yet to come. Let me remind you that 27 states have yet to vote, including massive delegate powerhouses such as New York and California, where Bernie polls very well against Clinton.
I would also take this opportunity to remind you that, historically speaking, the leading candidate often does not win the nomination, and the latter stages of the primary can see unforeseeable swings in candidate fortunes.
Heintz should stick to the facts and keep his defeatist attitudes out of publication.
Fantastic Film Festival
I just want to thank you for a fantastic film festival on Saturday: Spotlight on Journalism. The films were great, the introductions were great and the popcorn was great!