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Unsolved Murders in Los Angeles County

December 10, 1996

* Staff writers Fredric Tulsky and Ted Rohrlich and the small army of people who worked on the "And Justice for Some" series (Dec. 1-7) should be congratulated for an absolutely first-rate piece of investigative journalism.

The Dec. 1 article, in particular, should serve as a wake-up call for people who believe that the solution to crime is to invoke harsher penalties. The proponents of "lock-'em-up!" justice fail to consider the staggering cost of the criminal investigation that is required before the state can lock 'em up. It's no wonder that only one in three homicides results in a conviction. Proving suspects guilty doesn't get done for free. And the investigation bill doesn't even include the $40,000-a-year incarceration tab in the event that the criminal investigation is "successful."

Until we realize that the solutions to crime problems must be directed at the causes, rather than the consequences, of crime, our crime problems will not be solved. Makes midnight basketball look like a bargain, doesn't it?

STEVEN E. CLARK

Associate Professor of Psychology,

Law and Society Program

UC Riverside

* The most distressing aspect of Part I of your series is that LAPD Chief Willie Williams, L.A. County Sheriff Sherman Block and L.A. County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti all refused to be interviewed for the articles. How the heck are the citizens to know why crimes are not being solved without these officials conversing with the public via the press? Disgusting and arrogant.

SAUL DAVIS

Studio City

* It is truly upsetting that the police cannot begin to contend with the unconscionable epidemic of homicides. Clearly, the system is overwhelmed with no solution visible.

Lest any scofflaws feel that they can take advantage of the overloaded system, however, please permit me to disabuse them. Just dare to try operating a motor car with your seat belt unfastened and they'll getcha in an instant. Let a parking meter run overtime and the ticket will appear like magic.

Is a young woman named Heidi Fleiss arranging for or providing certain services to affluent Arabs, Asians and Hollywood high rollers for $2,000 a pop? There is available infinite law enforcement manpower when the crime is not homicide but hanky-panky.

BOB DAVIS

Cathedral City

* The section of your first article that deserves special mention was the box describing "How the Study Was Performed." What a shame that you had to do such an obviously difficult study to dig up information that every law enforcement agency and every local politician should have easily available. You found that "no agency keeps a comprehensive database that tracks the details of all homicide prosecutions." How can we take effective action to reduce homicides if we do not have all the facts all the time?

DIMITRI POLONSKY PhD

Los Angeles

The writer is a former chief psychologist for the California Youth Authority.

* Re "In a System Stretched Thin, Wrongful Arrests Happen," Dec. 4: As a long-time constitutional defense attorney who has represented countless people accused of committing crimes, I have seen all too many who were arrested on skimpy or illegally seized evidence. After they languish in jail, away from loved ones and having lost jobs because of that absence, the cases will be dismissed, and the smug and arrogant institutional attitude is: "See, the system worked." No, it didn't!

Nothing can make up for wrongful incarceration, for lost companionship, for lost jobs, or for the obloquy associated with being accused of crime (even if wrongfully). But, by and large, nothing happens to the judge who with a wink embraced the cops' tales nor to the prosecutor who capitalized on them nor to the cop who manufactured them. Nobody is liable, frequently nobody apologizes and never does anybody compensate or exhibit the least bit of guilt about the liberty wrongfully infringed. "The system worked." No, it didn't.

MICHAEL J. KENNEDY

Joshua Tree

* Of course the number of murders has doubled in the last 20 years. That is when the government enacted its "war on drugs" policy. The same thing happened in the 1920s when Prohibition was in effect. The number of murders increased dramatically. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, domestic peace reigned.

We've been fighting the drug war for 25 years now, and the government is never going to win, just as it couldn't win with Prohibition either.

DEBRA S. DAVIS

Corona del Mar

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