No regard for accuracy in editorials

To the editor:

Leave it to the Review-Journal editorial board to not let facts get in the way of an unfounded smear.

Thursday’s editorial on freezing pay for congressional members couldn’t be more inaccurate. Not only am I committed to bringing to the floor a measure similar to Sen. David Vitter’s that stops automatic pay raises for members of Congress, I already did. In fact, I brought Sen. Vitter’s exact same legislation to the floor of the Senate as a standalone bill so that senators could vote on it explicitly — and I did so before we started voting on the omnibus appropriations bill.

Here’s the real hypocrisy: Sen. Vitter, R-La., himself blocked it from a vote.

Why would he prevent senators from voting on an issue about which he seemed so passionate? Because he was more interested in using his proposal as a poison pill to bring down the omnibus bill. His move was as transparent as it was disingenuous.

I am accustomed to the Review-Journal’s constant contrarian stance when it comes to my work for Nevada. But this editorial represents a milestone in its complete disregard for accuracy.

In the words of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Harry Reid

WASHINGTON, D.C.

THE WRITER, A NEVADA DEMOCRAT, IS MAJORITY LEADER OF THE U.S. SENATE.

Juror screening

To the editor:

I am writing in response to your March 5 editorial and position concerning juror screening. I have been a criminal defense attorney for close to 25 years, including representation of those who were facing a potential death sentence.

In the jurisdiction where I practiced previously, it was always made clear to jurors that their responses to juror questionnaires would be used only for the purposes of jury selection and would remain confidential. I find this not only to be the better practice, but in many cases essential, especially where it is important to address sensitive issues to ensure that a juror’s background and views do not render him or her unable to be fair and impartial on a specific case.

While I am generally a supporter of freedom of the press, I think in this particular instance, a defendant’s right to a fair and impartial jury takes precedence. Both the defense and prosecution strive for a fair jury and rely on the questionnaires to ensure the same.

In my experience, jurors are understandably concerned about the confidentiality of the information they provide for myriad reasons. This confidentiality concern is especially relevant to obtaining honest information concerning sensitive issues. Many questions concerning these kinds of issues have socially acceptable answers. If a juror knows that the responses to questions he or she gives will not be confidential, that juror may alter his or her responses accordingly, even without being consciously aware that this is the case.

The end result may not only lead to reluctance to answer on the juror’s part, but can also lead to misinformation.

Jury duty, especially in sensitive or emotionally draining cases, is difficult enough, and those who are willing to perform this awesome task should not be forced to surrender their privacy.

Especially in capital cases, where jurors have the life of a defendant in their hands, jurors should be free to express their true feelings and beliefs without fear of possible public ridicule or censure.

Additionally, while most jurors wish to perform their difficult job in a fair and impartial way, restricting the screening of potential jurors, as advocated in your editorial, could allow for the seating of a juror with a hidden agenda.

I agree with District Judge Jackie Glass’ original position and assurances to the potential jurors of the O.J. Simpson case that their information would be used appropriately and kept confidential. Because the copies of the questionnaires are preserved, the concerns in your editorial regarding “secret jury-stacking” would ultimately be exposed. Further, because both sides in a criminal case are involved in the jury selection process, the scenarios you set forth concerning the Simpson case would be very unlikely to occur.

Susan D. Burke

LAS VEGAS

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