Poll Puzzle; Serving the Wrong Purpose | Letters | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Poll Puzzle; Serving the Wrong Purpose



Poll Puzzle
A recent poll shows that Mia Love is going to win in her efforts to go to Congress. Let's hope that prediction is as accurate as Dewey wins in a run for President.

What is the accuracy of polls, and what is their influence on turnout? Are they simply a menace, or an accurate political and public tool?

I believe they hurt rather than help.
Dale Curtis
Salt Lake City

Serving the Wrong Purpose
Recently, 3rd District Judge L.A. Dever dismissed the manslaughter case against former West Valley police officer Shaun Cowley. Cowley shot and killed Danielle Willard as she sat unarmed in her car in the parking lot of an apartment complex after she allegedly made a drug deal. Dever, who is retiring in November, did no one any favors with his questionable ruling.

The Salt Lake District Attorney's Office investigated the shooting to decide whether it was justified or not. After several weeks, the office determined it was not justified. Of course, the Fraternal Order of Police was outraged because they think they are above the law, and every shooting is justified.

It was then Dever's responsibility to determine whether the alleged crime occured within the court's jurisdiction, and if there was probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime. The judge does not determine guilt or innocence.

After three days of testimony, the judge dismissed the case, stating that the state failed to prove Cowley's actions were not justified. Cowley could have assumed Willard was trying to kill him, and that deadly force was an appropriate response.

Utah Criminal Code states that the penalty for assault against a police officer is 90 to 180 days in jail, not a bullet in the head. Willard was backing up in a parking lot, not speeding down the freeway toward the officer.

A trial would have given Cowley the opportunity to clear his name with all the available evidence. A trial would have given Willard's family the day in court they deserve. A trial would have given the residents of Salt Lake County the chance to see whether or not police are using excessive, deadly force on unarmed suspects, or if they are acting in accordance with the law and their accepted procedures and protocol. The judge denied everyone those opportunities.

I have an idea as to why Judge Dever ruled the way he did. Paul Cassell, a local legal heavyweight, had joined Cowley's defense team. The former federal judge and University of Utah criminal-law professor said he didn't believe Cowley should have been charged with manslaughter, and that the DA's Office had made a mistake.

There is a good-old-boys network among police officers, and I have no doubt the social network among judges and former judges is a much smaller, tighter knit group. I'm sure Dever's respect and admiration for Cassell and his opinion on this case and his client did not go unnoticed. And it is interesting to note that among the nominees to replace Dever when he retires in November is Patricia Cassell, Paul Cassell's wife.

I have no doubt Dever has served the community with great honesty and integrity, but I also agree it's time for him to retire.
Craig Smith
Salt Lake City