Pending questions

Editor, Gettysburg Times,

Once again a pseudo-horrendous article in the Times leaves me wondering, how did this happen?

A juvenile, not yet in custody, is accused of a wide range of serious charges — faces trial as an adult — and yet there is no explanation as to why the alleged culprit had access to the sleeping child in the wee hours.

This is a pattern I’ve noticed over the past six years of reading the Times — some lowlife allegedly molests a juvenile, with no explanation as to how he was able to be physically present.

Left to read between the lines, I sometimes wonder if the parent/guardian of the child was involved with the accused, and is then doubly enraged when the paramour strays. No one has been charged over these years with endangering a child through negligence to my memory, yet the incidents seem to have occurred on their watch.

Then there is the “piling on” that occurs. Police routinely overcharge, and use inflammatory language. In this morning’s paper, a Pennsylvania State Police trooper is quoted as saying, “This was a cowardly act. We obviously have no tolerance for that....” Cowardice is not a criminal offence, it’s a schoolyard taunt--a powerful one with an immediate effect on the reader.

The trooper then further incites the public by admitting her own anger, and invites the public to join her in this emotion, based on an incomplete recounting of the event. Not satisfied with insult and emoting, the trooper delves into philosophy and theology--”evil.” “There is evil in this world, and a 5-year-old doesn’t know that kind of evil, but a 16-year-old does.” Here again, I have to supply conjecture into the void. What does the trooper believe is evil? Puberty, the consumption of alcohol? Use of such non-legal terms as evil and cowardly is totally unprofessional. It is also at odds with the remorse reportedly expressed by the suspect.

Once apprehended, can the 16-year-old accused expect neutral treatment from authorities primed to view him as both cowardly and evil? Or a fair defense effort from the Public Defender, who comes into play, as the Times has phrased it several times in recent months, when a juvenile commits a crime...?

Contrast all this with another article on the front page, the third in three days, regarding the serious injuries — not “petechial markings” — sustained by a first responder, which should never have occurred, yet no one — including the Times — asks the obvious.

Michael Gelner,

Gettysburg

Editor’s note: Thanks for your letter. Other readers may have similar questions, so I appreciate the opportunity to provide some insight. Details such as those you questioned tend to come out as part of the court process. Police are equally careful about what they release in other kinds of incidents. For example, they may withhold details about traffic accidents before completion of final reports that go to insurance companies. Not all police reports are available to the public or media under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law. That law only requires police departments to release incident logs if they are kept. — Alex J. Hayes, Times Managing Editor

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