Thurs­day’s thumbs

A smat­ter­ing of post-In­de­pen­dence Day thoughts

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Our thumbs are a lit­tle sore from con­stantly flick­ing the lighter as we helped the kids light up the night sky on In­de­pen­dence Day. Oh, who are we kid­ding? We en­joyed it as much as they did, and the thumbs aren’t so ir­ri­tated we can’t of­fer a few up­turned for the to­day’s ed­i­to­rial thoughts.

In­de­pen­dence Day was a brief respite from the seem­ingly end­less fight­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and the tweet­fest that emerges too fre­quently from our 45th pres­i­dent. Across the na­tion, peo­ple took part in all-Amer­i­can ac­tiv­i­ties, pro­vid­ing an all-too-quick mo­ment of unity. It’s worth tak­ing a lit­tle piece of In­de­pen­dence Day with us to ap­ply to ev­ery other day of the year. Not that we ex­pect Amer­i­cans to sud­denly be­come uni­fied in all things; that wouldn’t be Amer­i­can at all. But at least the day gave us a mo­ment to rec­og­nize that we still share a com­mon con­nec­tion to the Amer­i­can spirit of yes­ter­year and, hope­fully, of to­mor­row.

Count this among the ef­fects of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence we would have never thought of: State Rep. Jeff Wil­liams of Spring­dale spon­sored a bill in the last leg­isla­tive ses­sion that au­tho­rizes judges to sever an abused per­son’s cell­phone from their abuser’s phone plan. Wil­liams rec­og­nized that cell­phones have be­come so much more — a filing cabi­net for im­por­tant pa­pers, a method to pay bills, a strong tool for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and many other uses peo­ple rely on. Now, imag­ine if some­one abu­sive had con­trol, as far as the phone com­pa­nies are con­cerned, of that tool. Even as im­por­tant as it is, it also can be­come a con­duit for con­tin­ued en­dan­ger­ment, as abusers can use phones to track down the abused. The bill is now Act 577, al­low­ing a judge to is­sue an or­der that sev­ers the con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ship through the phone com­pany be­tween the abused and an al­leged abuser.

Wil­liams’ change is an out­stand­ing law that can help to re­move the power an abuser has and pro­vide added pro­tec­tion to those des­per­ately in need of it.

Ben­tonville is show­ing some love for res­i­dents who en­joy the sport of ten­nis. The Parks and Recre­ation Depart­ment has hired an en­gi­neer­ing firm for $34,000 to de­sign a fa­cil­ity with eight to 12 courts on the north­east cor­ner of Cit­i­zens Park. The city will use rev­enue from im­pact fees paid by de­vel­op­ers of projects around the city and con­struc­tion is ex­pected in 2018. As many ten­nis afi­ciona­dos will at­test, it’s not al­ways easy to find an open court in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, to the ad­di­tion will be wel­come. The city had 3,253 peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in its ten­nis pro­gram in 2016.

In the in­tense spot­light of a high-pro­file, po­li­cein­volved killing, it can be dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to un­der­stand the role of a jury and how sig­nif­i­cantly it dif­fers from that of cit­i­zens who have strong opin­ions based on a va­ri­ety of in­for­ma­tion not rel­e­vant to a crim­i­nal case.

A judge in Min­nesota who presided over the man­slaugh­ter trial of a po­lice of­fi­cer ac­quit­ted in the fa­tal shoot­ing of black mo­torist Phi­lando Castille re­cently wrote a let­ter to the jurors, whose ver­dict sparked heavy crit­i­cism, par­tic­u­larly af­ter re­lease of a dash-cam video of the shoot­ing. In that let­ter, Judge Wil­liam Leary III as­sured jurors they had done their job and ex­plained how their re­spon­si­bil­ity was far dif­fer­ent than that of ca­sual ob­server. “You were never asked to de­cide whether racism con­tin­ues to ex­ist, whether cer­tain mem­bers of our com­mu­nity are dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected by po­lice tac­tics, or whether po­lice train­ing is in­ef­fec­tive,” he wrote. “You were sim­ply asked to de­ter­mine, be­yond a rea­son­able doubt, whether a crime had been com­mit­ted.”

It was an un­usual step, but one that clearly de­lin­eated the du­ties of jurors and ex­plained how they dif­fer a great deal from the de­bate over broader com­mu­nity and so­ci­etal is­sues. That de­bate is vi­tal but can­not of­ten be fully ex­pressed or eval­u­ated in the con­text of a trial that only de­ter­mines guilt or in­no­cence, not right or wrong.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.