Re "Did System Fail to Protect Samantha?" July 27: Did I read the story correctly? In tapes played to the jury when he was charged with molesting two girls in 1999, Alejandro Avila admitted to touching his girlfriend's daughter in sensitive areas about a dozen times. This was when he bathed her, and he said it was not sexual. And the jury believed it.
Did the prosecutor point out that a 9-year-old does not need to be bathed by any adult, especially her mother's boyfriend? Was this one of the secrets the child was told to keep? It is very common for a child molester known to the family, or who is a family member, to tell the child that their activity must be kept a secret. Many times the child is told that the child will get in trouble if he or she tells or that his or her mother will get hurt. Was the jury told why children do not disclose? Why they keep secrets?
I have interviewed over 3,500 children who were victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation. I have also interviewed many adults who were disclosing for the first time being abused as a child. The great majority of these victims have said that they were told to keep it a secret, and they did. Parents should be teaching children that there should not be secrets between adults and children. Children should tell if an adult tells them to keep something a secret. This is one way to prevent or limit sexual abuse. Don't keep secrets.
Would the jury members have convicted Avila if they understood how sexual predators operate? We don't know. Hopefully, these issues will be brought to the attention of juries.
The original idea behind the jury system was to have a committee of clear-minded citizens who would assure fair-mindedness and prevent the miscarriage of justice. But our jury system today has become just the opposite. Murderers are freed or convicted by jurors who often base their decision not on facts but on the charisma or performance of a lawyer. Plaintiffs are awarded millions of dollars for self-inflicted illnesses, such as smoking. Pedophiles are acquitted by juries and go on to kill small children like Samantha Runnion.
Maybe it's time to have a system similar to the one in France, where the final decisions are made not by inexpert jurors but by three judges, all versed in the law, able to understand the charges and who must agree among themselves about the verdict. Isn't it time to repair a system that no longer seems to be working?
Re "Bush Declares Suspect in Samantha Case 'the Killer,' " July 27: Apparently President Bush has stumbled on a way to save taxpayers billions of dollars while freeing up our court system of its onerous duties. All he needs to do is to declare any person on trial guilty or not guilty based upon his knowledge of the case. What a great feeling it would be to know that one would never have to serve jury duty again.