Prosecutors must tread carefully

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan accused three members of Conestoga's football team of sodomizing a 14-year-old player with a broomstick.

Prosecutors must tread carefully

Ronnie Polaneczky's column on the Conestoga High School football player controversy was spot on ("Conestoga sodomy lie still doing harm," Thursday).

The similarities are downright eerie between the incident and the notorious Duke lacrosse case several years ago. In both cases, despite many yellow flags, an overzealous prosecutor attempted to front-run a weak case in the media instead of methodically examining the evidence and trying the case in the courtroom. The enduring result was not convictions, but immense damage to individual, school, and community reputations and resources. And, in both cases, the defendants prevailed only because they were represented by able counsel. Many others are not so fortunate.

The problem lies in the inherent conflicting roles of the district prosecutors. On one hand they are officers of the court who need to conscientiously seek justice, wherever it leads. On the other hand, they are politicians who push certain cases and seek media coverage to win votes. Most prosecutors do a very good job managing this tension. Where it is a problem, state Bar Association ethical rules need to be better enforced to assure that prosecutors act objectively and don't manipulate or taint public opinion or jury pools.

The other safety valve is the ballot box.

|William G. Lawlor, St. Davids

Vengeance for Amtrak crash?

I am puzzled by the motivation behind the crusade by plaintiffs' counsels in the Amtrak train derailment case to seek criminal charges against the conductor, Brandon Bostian ("Amtrak engineer charged in crash," May 13).

I am reminded of a basic legal principle from my first year of law school, namely, that the mere happening of an accident is not evidence of negligence. Surely, plaintiffs' counsels are aware of this concept.

Despite an exhaustive two-year investigation by Amtrak, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, no evidentiary smoking gun has been revealed that supports a finding of criminal negligence or its requisite finding of "conscious disregard" of the risks involved.

While this accident was clearly a tragedy on many levels, including for Bostian, it does not seem to rise to the level of a crime. So, is it justice that's being pursued here, or is it vengeance?

|Andrew A. Borek, Philadelphia,

Trump gets out the Dems vote

I live in a Republican-dominated county in a just-turned red state, Pennsylvania - although Chester County did vote for Hillary. But last week's primary showed the promise of President Trump.

Democrats are getting off their duff to get Dems elected from the bottom up. In Chester County, Democratic turnout increased 43 percent over the 2015 election. We have four women Democrats running for seats in the county that have been held by Republicans for 150 years. They received nearly as many votes as did the corresponding Republican candidates.

Thank you, Donald, for the impetus to turn around our Republican-dominated districts, gerrymandered in their favor, to a two-party system.

|Catherine M. Poole, Glenmoore,

Open the primaries to all voters

In Pennsylvania, voters must affiliate with a party to vote in the primaries. We should consider ending the practice of closed primaries.

Open primaries prioritize the voters' wishes over those of the establishment and foster more substantive engagement with the issues. The electorate is diverse and is not easily defined by monolithic politics. We should strive to enfranchise those of us who, as independents, may not agree completely with the strictures of a single party's platform but still wish to engage in the democratic process.

|Colin J. Keiffer, Philadelphia

Maybe Trump will see the light

President Trump's planned visit to the Vatican this month raises hope that Pope Francis might influence the president's intransigence regarding climate change.

The challenging words of the pope's encyclical letter Laudato Si' testify: "Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift, which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us."

May the pope inspire such thinking in the president so that the United States remains committed to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Our children deserve it.

|Sister Renee Yann, RSM, Merion Station,

Pa. must act on methane pollution

A 20 percent increase in methane emissions at natural gas sites in Pennsylvania shouldn't alarm just environmentalists - it should be a wake-up call to everyone ("Methane up at natural gas sites in Pa.," Tuesday).

Southeastern Pennsylvania is ground zero for energy development, as gas pipelines facilitate the market for natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. We may not be dealing with fracking, but the pipelines that will soon engulf us could be as leaky as drilling rigs elsewhere.

Until we compel natural gas companies to cut methane emissions, things won't get better. The substantial jump in emissions confirms that. Gov. Wolf announced a plan to cut methane emissions more than a year ago, yet we're still waiting for action.

Pennsylvanians shouldn't have to wait for clean air when readily available solutions exist. The governor needs to make good on his commitment and act now to cut methane pollution.

|Laura Downs, Philadelphia,