Cheers and jeers: Keeping hope alive

CHEERS to local radio talk show host Jolyn Thomas, who can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 97.7 FM and 1260 AM.

Eight years ago, the Post Register published a two-day series on Michael Whiteley, an Idaho Falls man convicted of kidnapping and raping his ex-wife in 1991.

With no physical evidence, prosecutors relied almost entirely on testimony from his ex-wife. Years later, at a post-conviction hearing, she cited her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination 69 times when asked about that testimony.

Key witnesses were never called at the trail. Whiteley turned down a plea deal that would have seen him serve four months in prison because he would not admit to something he still maintains he did not do.

A jury, however, found him guilty. Then Judge Marv Smith dropped the bombshell, sentencing Whiteley to 12 years to life in prison.

District Court Judge Brent Moss looked at the evidence and ordered a new trial. That decision was reversed by the Idaho Supreme Court.

“I was left with an uneasy feeling that justice was not served by the original verdict and that a new trial was appropriate,” Moss said.

One of those moved by the Post Register story was Lyman Martin of Idaho Falls. He contacted Thomas, who read the court file and arrived at this conclusion: “This is a horrible miscarriage of justice.”

On her show, Thomas has called attention to Whiteley’s imprisonment. She’s interviewed Mel Daniel, a retired Detroit cop who moved to Idaho Falls, became a private detective and has worked diligently to free Whiteley.

One can argue Whiteley shouldn’t have spent a single day in prison. Twenty-three years is certainly enough. There are murderers and child molesters who do less time.

Thomas will interview Whiteley from prison next Thursday. She said her goal is to keep hope alive that somehow Whiteley, now in his 60s, will be set free before he dies.

We share that hope.

CHEERS to Carol Dodge of Idaho Falls. Today marks the 18th anniversary of the horrific murder of her daughter, Angie.

Christopher Tapp was convicted of the murder, but said two men were with him that night. DNA evidence did not match Tapp or one of the men he implicated, Benjamin Hobbs, now doing time in Nevada. Private investigators continue to search for the third man, whose DNA was left at the crime scene.

Through it all, Dodge has never given up, never shied away from holding local police’s feet to the fire and never stopped searching. We admire her spirit and wish her well on this most difficult of days.

JEERS to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. On June 9, the governor wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking the agency to reclassify “emergency contraceptives” as “abortifacients.” Why? Because state law prohibits “certain insurance plans, policies and contracts issued in this state from offering coverage for elective abortions.”

Idaho law defines abortion as “the use of any means to intentionally terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman with knowledge that the termination by those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of an unborn child …”

Emergency contraception is not abortion. As Barbara J. Nelson, M.D., wrote in this paper eight years ago: “If a woman is already pregnant, emergency contraception will not work, nor will it harm an existing pregnancy.”

By seeking to prevent insurance plans from covering emergency contraception, Otter would violate state and federal law. Worse, this reclassification could lead to more abortions because some women might not have access to those products.

Writing in 2006, Nelson concluded: “I strongly believe that emergency contraception should be available to all women and may even have the positive impact on society of decreasing the number of abortions performed.”

Otter is putting politics ahead of sound medical decision-making. It’s fair to wonder how many women will remember this in November.

CHEERS to Idaho Falls City Attorney Randy Fife. In an email to Mayor Rebecca Casper, Fife addressed rumors that representatives from local developer Ball Ventures contacted members of the City Council to discuss the Cabela’s project on Hitt Road.

Those kinds of individual meetings, Fife wrote, are “problematic” because of requirements in the Local Land Use Planning Act.

“While it is fine for City staff to meet with developers on a particular project, I recommend against these individual meetings,” Fife wrote. “Splitting up the presentation by meeting individually does not avoid the problem. All deliberations and discussions must be made in public and all information upon which the decision is made must be in public.”

Certainly an argument can be made that representatives from Ball Ventures have a right to meet with their elected officials. But we appreciate that, in this instance, Fife is erring on the side of openness.

JEERS to outgoing Ada County Republican Party Secretary Dawn Hatch, who is the runaway winner in the category for lamest excuse of the year. Hatch, according to reporting by the Idaho Statesman, would not release the names of delegates to the state convention in Moscow because doing so would make them targets for burglars while they were out of town.

Shaking head.

Moving on.

CHEERS to Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton. Siddoway has proposed a simple and direct Republican Platform to delegates in Moscow. His document would delete any mention of the 17th Amendment, Gold Standard or state takeover of federal lands.

The platform Siddoway proposes would be silent on the death penalty and redistricting. The section calling for a closed primary would also be gone.

What remains is a relatively straightforward document that would keep the Idaho Republican Party out of silly debates over which it has no control, such as the direct election of U.S. senators and abolishment of the Federal Reserve.

Of course, that’s the very reason it probably won’t get any traction this weekend.

JEERS to Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, who is urging Republicans to embrace a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that says “Every child has a right to a female mother and a male father.”

The Idaho Supreme Court recently opened the door for gay couples to legally adopt children in the state. Many gay and lesbian couples already raise children together. Some make great parents. Others don’t. Just like straight couples.

It’s no surprise Nuxoll would pander to the worst elements of her party, those who feel threatened by two men or two women in loving and committed relationships being granted legal rights and raising children.

Lots of kids need good homes. If one can be provided by a gay or lesbian couple, great. Let us hope Republicans in Moscow have more sense than to recommend polluting the Idaho Constitution with his hateful nonsense.

CHEERS to the Idaho Falls-based Idaho Brewing Co., which earned four gold medals and a silver at the 25th annual Mountain Brewers Brew Fest last weekend. Congratulations Wolf, Matt and everyone else involved. As anyone who has sampled your creations understands, those medals were well-earned.

Corey Taule

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