Nov. 8 reader letters

Nov 07, 2013

Efforts of many will help curb drunk driving

On Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, The Mountaineer ran a story entitled “Off the Hook.”

It was about one of the many DWI cases that prosecutors were being forced to dismiss all across WNC. The case involved a repeat offender who refused to give a breath sample. His blood was drawn, as the law requires.

That blood specimen, and the analyst who tested it, were crucial to the case.

The crime lab in Raleigh was, and still is, understaffed, overwhelmed and under  funded, creating a backlog of thousands of untested specimens, many from WNC.

District Attorneys Mike Bonfoey, Ron Moore and others had expressed their alarm and frustration many times.

The Haywood County DWI Task Force had placed lab issues at the top of its priority list.

The Mountaineer story and a subsequent editorial entitled “Too far away from justice” were picked up by news agencies all over the state, in upstate South Carolina and by several television stations.

I began to receive calls, emails and letters from disbelieving people.

“How could a blood test that takes 20 minutes at the hospital take two years, especially when people are getting killed?”

That this was accepted by anyone was stunning to even people who had no involvement in medicine or law.

That overburdened prosecutors and officers were being forced to go back and re-charge defendants months and years after the crime, when the blood results finally returned was almost unbelievable.

At about the same time of these stories, The Mountaineer began to cover the Angela Woody story.

Angela had been hit by a repeat DWI offender whose blood was sitting in Raleigh, untested, from her most recent DWI arrest in Buncombe County. Angela would eventually pay the ultimate price for WNC not having adequate lab services.

It became, and still is, something of a “joke” in the courtroom, that blood tests were taking up to two years and that analysts had long ago retired or left employment with the lab by the time the case went to court.

Through the continued, relentless and diligent efforts of Mr. Bonfoey, Mr. Moore, the Haywood County DWI Task Force, and the efforts of The Mountaineer to educate the public, help finally came.

Senators Jim Davis and Tom Apodaca introduced and supported Senate Bill 3. Rep. Joe Sam Queen followed with House Bill 39.

These bills allowed for appropriation of funds toward a WNC Crime Lab, 19 new toxicologist positions and for local hospitals to begin testing the blood of DWI suspects for alcohol.

The driving while impaired “industry” will never be the same. Defendants may now get the speedy trial that the 6th Amendment entitles them to.

If they need treatment, the court can mandate it. If jail is the only way to keep them from killing and maiming, the public will be safer, sooner.

I would love to see the story and the editorial re-printed in memory of Angela Woody and others who might never have suffered or died while untested blood specimens sat on a shelf, especially as we are on the eve of the first hospital testing.

Even if that is not possible, I have said before and will say again — your paper has fulfilled the highest duty of journalism by providing the public with facts that help lead us to solutions.

Ellen T. Pitt, MADD WNC

Member Haywood County DWI Task Force

Thanks for the support

To the editor:

Thanks to everyone who supported the band of bears during the first annual papertown marching band festival.

Eleven marching band enjoyed a great day of competition with the band from Apex High School taking the grand champion prize.

Thank you Mr. Stewart and the band of bears for a great day.

Penny Squires



Cartoon was offensive

To the editor:

We take exception to the simplistic, nasty and deceitful political cartoon in the Nov. 1 edition of The Mountaineer.

It shows two men in a bar.  One man says “Obama HAS fundamentally transformed the country.”  The other guy smirkingly says: “So when my unemployment runs out, I went on Disability, and then a glitch gave me unlimited benefits on my food stamp card, so I ransacked a WalMart...”.

The obvious implication of the cartoon is that our country’s culture is being transformed into a bunch of low-income, corrupt takers, always looking for a life-long handout.  What cynical nonsense.

Do some needy folks engage in corruption?  Yes.  Should they be punished?  Absolutely yes.

Are most people at the lowest income levels of our society corrupt?  From our life-long experience in working with the less fortunate — absolutely not.

Now think about the greed involved in the big bank mortgage scandals that cost U.S. taxpayers billions and caused our great national recession.

Think about the world-wide child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.  Think about the multiple and various scandals over the past few years which involved top-level police officials here in our region.

The moral of this letter?  No segment of society should be defined by the corrupt few.

Blame and punish only the individuals that commit the crimes, and fix whatever problems in the system that make it easy to get away with the crimes.

Rusty and Penny



Stand Your Ground defined

To the editor:

“Stand Your Ground” in simple form means “that there is no duty to retreat when a person is immediate jeopardy of life or grave bodily harm, in a place where he or she has a legal right to be and no other options are available.”

If you are legally allowed to carry a firearm, not engaging in criminal activity, not the instigator of the event, nor continued with the event and have the legal right to be where you are then you have no duty under law to retreat from immediate life threatening imminent attack.

It does not mean you can instigate the attack nor go and retrieve a firearm after a fight, that is not imminent, nor does it allow you to carry a firearm illegally. It does not allow you to act unlawfully and commit a unlawful act then attempt to claim self-defense.

In its basic terms “Stand Your Ground” means you can defend yourself or a innocent party with up to and including deadly force if the situation dictates the need, should your life be placed in immediate, unavoidable grave danger and you are the innocent with no ability to flee, why no ability to flee? Because if you could, then you should. Anything else would be murder.”

John Hemingway

WNC CARRY Firearms & Training