Dangerous exercise of opinion


As trial and appellate counsel for Brandon Thongsavanh, I am compelled to respond to the Sun Journal’s editorial of April 12 “Court urged to reject third trial for Thongsavanh.” The editorial is factually and legally wrong. It is also dangerously inappropriate. Insofar as a discussion of the factual and legal errors with your piece is not productive in light of the paper’s intellectual torpor and lack of open-mindedness on the issues surrounding Mr. Thongsavanh, I shall limit my response to the inappropriateness of the editorial.

The inappropriateness of the editorial may best be demonstrated by the rhetorical question: What will your paper’s position be if the Maine Supreme Court determines (as it may, given the gravity of the issues on appeal) that Mr. Thongsavanh was, in fact, denied a fair trial? Is it “oops, never mind” or is it “Mr. Thongsavanh is guilty notwithstanding the Law Court’s determination that he has not yet been fairly convicted”?

You see, the Thongsavanh appeal raises issues of the applicability of criminal legal precedent; it is not a debate on public policy. We are, and aspire to be, a society of laws and not of men, whether singular or collective. When a newspaper interjects its perspective on how an independent court should conduct its detached and analytical consideration of legal precedent, the newspaper engages in a dangerous exercise.

Societies exist which predicate criminal adjudications upon the vagaries of public opinion. We should not want to live in such a society.

David J. Van Dyke, Lewiston