Valley News Forum for March 22, 2023: Prosecutor’s withheld evidence must have been a mistake

Published: 3/22/2023 6:14:29 AM
Modified: 3/22/2023 6:25:12 AM
Prosecutor’s withheld evidence must have been a mistake

Last month a Vermont trial judge dismissed a Windsor County criminal case, citing a prosecutor’s failure to disclose potentially exculpatory information (“Weathersfield man’s sex assault case tossed before trial over withheld evidence,” Feb. 24). Prosecutors have a legal and ethical obligation to share with the defense information prosecutors have that goes to the credibility of a witness. A breach of this obligation can impair the ability of an accused person to mount an adequate defense.

A failure to disclose exculpatory information can emanate from two very different places: 1) a desire to consciously withhold evidence; and 2) a mistake. In either situation, the accused person is potentially prejudiced, but the assessment of the prosecutor’s conduct should differ substantially according to how and why there was a failure to disclose.

News reporting on the dismissed case intimated that a former Deputy State’s Attorney, Heidi Remick, intentionally withheld evidence. Not only is that factually inaccurate but it reflects a deep lack of awareness about her extraordinary contributions to the people of Vermont and the pursuit of justice when she worked in this state. Attorney Remick is ethical, fair, committed to justice, and would never deliberately conceal evidence. Perhaps there was an oversight, but to question her substantial contributions to Vermont is, itself, a miscarriage of justice.

Robert Sand

former Windsor County State’s Attorney

Let’s not abandon the purpose of public education

Comment on Superintendent Jay Badams’ letter to the Vermont Legislature (“Vermont must resolve the school choice disconnect,” March 16) from a retired teacher of social studies, which includes civics:

The public school is more manifold in its purpose and function than any “independent” or “charter” school that I know of. It aspires to — and is legally required to — make available to all of a community’s children an appropriate education cf. “special education.” It is what economists term a public good.

In principle public education includes civic education. It is pejorative to term such education “indoctrination.” Presumably future citizens should understand their local, state and national political institutions, including their constitutions, as well as central democratic practices such as the vote. They should be able to debate the meanings of such democratic aspirations as freedom, equality and the rule of law. They deserve to be taught by teachers knowledgeable about civic institutions, and trained in critical thinking. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, without an educated citizenry democracy is not sustainable.

Where public education suffers from deficiencies, the remedy is not abandonment, but commitment and support by all citizens (i.e. we the people) for our children and our future as a democracy. Independent schools should be — as typically they long have been — financially independent. In my view Superintendent Badams is correct to assert that a school largely supported by tuitions paid out of tax monies is not an “independent” school. Also, in being a special purpose institution, when it is so supported, it offends against basic principles in a democracy.

We citizens need to take care that public education: 1. not abandon its purposes as stated above; 2. not become merely a launching pad for middle class economic success — cf . such programs as “AP” classes and STEM curriculum; and 3. not replace citizen support — i.e. taxation — with a free market lottery that inescapably would favor “haves” at the expense of “have nots” in some putative “market” for education.

Boris G. von York

Springfield, Vt.

Here’s what’s wrong with public schools

As a parent concerned with public education, I would like to share my perspective in response to the March 19 letters to the editor (“Parents don’t always know best,” and “Teens need adults with compassion in their lives”).

I have less than a year experience with having a child in public school, yet I am already looking for alternative options for next year. This has nothing to do with the educators and everything to do with school policies and administration. Every teacher and support staff member I have met has moved me with their kindness, patience and care for children. It makes me incredibly sad to give up on public school, but I simply can’t leave my child in the care of an institution that thinks elementary students benefit from iPad use and doesn’t think parents need to know in advance that their 5-year-old will be asked to draw themselves naked.

In her letter to the editor, Deborah H. Bacon Nelson, a School Board member, “make(s) it very clear that we will not tolerate such efforts” by parents like me attempting to bring more openness and transparency to our public schools.

Fair enough — I felt the administration’s intolerance for my family’s values. It’s nothing new — my great-grandparents held forbidden views in the Soviet Union and fled to save their lives. The totalitarian propensity to eliminate opposing viewpoints does not end well (and this is something we’re seeing on both extremes of the political spectrum). And so my kids are added to the statistic of declining public school enrollment.

Anastasia Rodzianko


A message to public school parents

There’s a simple answer for the parents in our country who press their legislatures to pass laws to control what is taught and discussed at school: Teach your children at home or enroll them in private schools.

And the parents who are exasperated with this movement should contact their legislatures and tell them to stop trying to enforce ignorance and paranoia on children who deserve unfettered education.

Barry Wenig


What happened to equal opportunity for the poor?

My family and I reside in the town of Piermont, and we have a gifted 13 year-old who would like to attend either Thetford Academy or St. Johnsbury Academy — like other kids from our area. Piermont has a precedent of paying the Piermont-set cap for students to attend every blue-ribbon school in this area: Hanover High, Thetford Academy, and St. Johnsbury Academy. Their policy has changed to disallow such out-of-district opportunities. Why is that being changed?

Our family is still living beneath the federal poverty line even with me working 12-hour night shifts in December and January, and every full-time week I can get since then. Our family has never taken a penny out of taxpayers’ pockets to date having been home-schoolers. There are simple methods for us to be able to cover the difference between the Piermont cap and a blue-ribbon school tuition, which we specifically qualify for due to our economic situation.

Our daughter is a good, self-motivated scholar, who started studying English three years ago, and tied for first place in the Scholastic Chess Tournament at one of these blue ribbon schools. She has worked hard to earn a place in such an elevated institution in spite of the challenges of our family’s situation. Wanting the best educational opportunity for our child, why are we not receiving support for her to further her academic achievements? Isn’t it her constitutional right to have her education needs met?

The elected town moderator actually raised her voice at the last town meeting to say that anyone who doesn’t agree with what the School Board is doing should leave town.

We cannot describe in less than 350 words the level of resistance we have met since first addressing this with the School Board last autumn.

John Boyle and Family


Don’t ban gender-affirming care for minors

I write to vigorously oppose HB 619, a bill which will lead to increases in child suicide and deaths. It is a bill based on rumor, misinformation, and hate.

Gender-affirming care has been shown to reduce suicide attempts in adolescents with gender dysphoria. No one is performing body modification surgeries on vulnerable minors in New Hampshire. Puberty blockers save lives. Students with gender confusion benefit from reading literature showing that they are not alone, not freaks. And conversion therapy is unethical and destructive.

And if my 50 years of clinical experience treating trauma survivors proves anything — as do New Hampshire child abuse statistics — we know that not all parents are supportive of their children’s struggles. They need teachers and therapists who will listen.

Throw this bill in the garbage where it belongs.

Philip J. Kinsler, Ph.D., ABPP, FAAFP


Protect women from transgender rights

Over the past few years I have watched with fascination becoming horror the unfolding bullying by the transgender rights runaway train ... as typified in the gut-wrenching reaction by the VPA to punish Mid Vermont Christian School’s completely appropriate decision not to play their girls team against a mixed gender team in a basketball tournament that included — note my words! — an actual boy(“Mid Vermont Christian School ousted from sports over transgender discrimination,” March 13).

As the father of three daughters and seven granddaughters — I am appalled they no longer have their basic rights of a level playing field in sports, privacy in their bathrooms and worst — freedom to speak up without being castigated by the manufactured outrage of a mob culture that has completely lost its moorings claiming that men can be women, women can be men — and indiscriminately according privileges once rationally reserved to those biological sexes.

No other country is having these tortured conversations or posting pictures of the (clearly male) Lia Thomas NCAA swimming champ next to two females whom he wrongfully usurped from their earned first and second positions. This is so palpably obvious a problem it would be laughable in any rational culture — but we gave that up for the current moral insanity that allows anyone to “decide” what they are/want to be and to demand the rest of us fall in line. I for one will not fall in line and pretend this is anything other than the narcissistic worship of personal freedom at all costs without thought of the civic, moral, natural, intellectual and national consequences of a country imprisoned by its lack of basic honesty.

I am calling out those who have failed to protect women from now precipitously losing the gains made by their brave feminist forebears, their daughters and sisters and wives and mothers who no longer have a level playing field, or worse a place to speak up and posit how wrong this actually is. How ironic it took a small school in Vermont to show the courage our culture dumped into the politically correct ditch a while ago — and kudos to them for doing so. I honor and respect their decision.

George Abetti

White River Junction

Teevens article in poor taste

Perhaps Tris Wykes is young and/or has not had the experience of sitting with a beloved in the hospital after a crash. Perhaps a seasoned editor did not have time to review the March 20 article “Dartmouth: Teevens in Florida hospital after bike crash ” before publication. Perhaps there was hope that quoting unguarded, humorous words spoken by Mrs. Teevens in a completely different context would increase the likelihood this article would be picked up by other outlets. We can only speculate about the effect of seeing these words used in this moment on the Teevens family. I am not the only Valley News subscriber and community member who found this inappropriate and distasteful. As one said, “Not a good look for the Valley News.” I agree. It hit like the New York Post.

Barbara Fildes


What’s your point with the Teevens article?

I am shocked and saddened to hear about Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens’ recent biking accident (“Dartmouth: Teevens in Florida hospital after bike crash ,” March 20) . Also shocking was the callous reporting by Tris Wykes. Many people, including myself, cringed inside reading the throwaway lines that were quoted — tongue in cheek banter from an old interview — and reported totally out of context.

My question to Tris Wykes: What’s your point? How did this piece serve your readership? How did it serve the college, the community, the team? The reporting was distasteful at the least, traumatic at the worst. It did nothing to serve the Teevens family.

Dear Valley Snooze, how about something positive to focus on as we sit vigil with this beloved family who has given so much to our community? Our love and prayers are with them. Yours should be, too.

Nancy Forsythe Harrington


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