Basis of Defense

The personal nature of Mr. Ciotti’s article about Michael Goodwin and Mickey Thompson [“Murder on the Last Turn,” Oct. 20–26] is too troubling to leave unaddressed. He attributes quotes to me that were never said and many things I did speak of are quoted inaccurately, distorting their meaning altogether.

An unnamed source thinks I am a naive dupe, fooled by a master manipulator, my client. If a male defense attorney were to believe in his client’s innocence and to so state, he would be heralded as a passionate and zealous advocate. A female attorney is being “manipulated” by an “alpha male.” The misogynistic implication of that sentiment is truly offensive. When did it become acceptable for a journalist to quote unnamed sources whose sole addition to the article is a personal opinion amounting to an attack on my professionalism? What could possibly be the need for anonymity in the context of a court case? If someone did not have the courage of their convictions to identify themselves, how was it deemed relevant or trustworthy enough to print?

Equally offensive is Mr. Ciotti’s assessment that I harbor hostility toward the family of a murder victim. I have long objected in this case to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department allowing family members to guide the investigation, but that is the fault of the Sheriff’s investigators, not the family members. Mr. Goodwin and the Thompson/Campbell families have had disputes that go back 20-some years. I am not a party to those disputes and take no position in that battle. This trial is not about decades-old feuds. This trial is about an innocent man, who has been kept in custody for five years without bail on the basis of suspicion alone. My belief in my client’s innocence stems not from a weak will or naiveté but from a thorough review of 40,000 pages of reports and two years of investigation into other suspects.

Elena Saris

Los Angeles

Ciotti responds: If Elena Saris thinks we said that her client, Michael Goodwin, manipulated her because she was a woman, she didn’t read the story closely enough. What we said was that Goodwin manipulated everyone, including Saris.

I also find it hard to believe that Saris holds no hostility toward Collene Campbell, the sister of the man her client allegedly killed. Her tone in our interview suggested otherwise. Over two hours, she suggested Campbell was “involved in drugs.” She complained that the detectives assigned to the Mickey Thompson murder case never bothered to investigate Campbell even though she was the one person who “benefited” most from her brother’s murder. She ridiculed Campbell for showing up at a parole hearing for the drug dealer who killed her son, clutching her son’s photo during her testimony “like he was the class valedictorian.”

A Spreading Problem

Fear, sadness and anger were my responses to Christine Pelisek’s article about the staph-infection outbreak on Skid Row [“The Skid Row Scourge,” Oct. 20–26].

The L.A. County health department’s Elizabeth Bancroft states: “If we do a study on Skid Row, we have to give something else up that we are currently doing, and the health department leaders have decided, at this time, that there are other, more pressing priorities.” What could be more pressing than the lives and health of 1,500 fellow Americans sleeping on the streets of Skid Row? These people are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and former military who have fallen through the cracks of society; the children who live in shelters and hotels on Skid Row, workers who have chosen jobs that take them to Skid Row each day, police and fire personnel who are in contact with the residents of Skid Row each day.

All of these people are not a priority? Who are the people who make these decisions? What are the more pressing priorities? Why can’t help come now? If it is because they feel the public doesn’t care, then my plea is for our fellow citizens to demand of the health department some explanation and action now, and to start listening to those who live and work on Skid Row.

Never forget the children and teens of Skid Row — they didn’t choose to be homeless in this neighborhood. Olive View–UCLA Medical Center’s Gregory Moran: “?‘Now potentially everyone in the community is at risk. Healthy young people are getting it.’ Moran says he sees one or two fatal cases of Skid Row staph annually.” May people who do not live on Skid Row speak up in behalf of those who live and work there.

Agnes Stevens


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