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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 27, 2009 at 4:00 PM

South Park murder: Judge missed chance to prevent tragedy

Judges may not have clairvoyance, but do need common sense

Editor, The Times:

The revelation that our justice system had an opportunity to keep the public safe from at least one potential danger and decided not to is both disturbing and incredibly sad [“South Park slaying suspect caught,” NWSaturday, July 25]. The King County Prosecutor’s Office apparently did everything that it could to put Isaiah M.K. Kalebu behind bars at least for a short period of time. Prosecutors felt, and rightly so, that Kalebu was a danger to public safety.

King County Superior Court Judge Brian Gain didn’t see it that way, and Teresa Butz lost her life and her partner was seriously hurt as a result.

No one is suggesting that judges should have clairvoyance, but a little common sense wouldn’t hurt. It seems to me that there were all sorts of reasons to at least hold Kalebu for mental evaluation.

While no judge can foresee murder, the danger to public safety was apparently quite evident. I wonder what was evident to Gain?

— Phil Bate, Lynnwood

Make it a policy to always print judges’ names

Thank you for naming the judge who declined to place the alleged slayer in custody on a different offense six days before the suspect killed a woman and injured another.

Print and TV reporters frequently use phrases like “the court ordered” or “the judge said” in reporting legal actions but omit the names of the judges. This omission does voters a disservice. Without the names we have little information on which to base votes for or against judges, except the sometimes questionable ratings of the Municipal League.

I strongly recommend that The Times establish a policy of naming judges and court commissioners in articles about their actions, except in rare extraordinary situations.

By doing so you will provide a valuable service to your subscribers.

— Harry Petersen, Bellevue

Remember South Park slaying when electing judges

It is no surprise that Isaiah M.K. Kalebu, the suspect in the South Park murder, has a history of mental illness and run-ins with the police. It’s also sadly no surprise that the courts and the mental-health system are still failing to protect us.

Kalebu’s aunt recently filed for a protection order; he had threatened and assaulted her. Kalebu may have responded by burning his aunt’s house, killing her and a tenant –he’s a suspect in that murder, not yet charged.

Kalebu is also awaiting trial for threatening to kill his mother. A Western State Hospital psychologist found he “did not have the capacity to rationally understand” that case against him. Then Kalebu failed to attend a court hearing. Later, when he finally did appear in court, the prosecutor naturally asked Superior Court Judge Brian Gain to place Kalebu in jail custody because of the aforementioned facts. Gain outrageously and tragically refused to order that he be held. Kalebu was allowed to remain free.

This decision was unbelievable and indefensible. Six days later, he brutally stabbed two women, murdering one, Teresa Butz.

Kalebu clearly should have been placed in jail. This murder was preventable. And who will be the next victim? When are the citizens of this state going to get the protection we deserve?

At the least we can do one thing: Remember this the next time Gain runs for Superior Court judge. By placing the “rights” of an obviously dangerous, mentally ill criminal above the rights of us citizens, he failed to protect us all.

— Doug Hjellen, Mill Creek

Three missed opportunities to prevent South Park slaying

I read with dismay [“Video, DNA trail led police to suspect,” page one, July 26] about murder suspect Isaiah M. K. Kalebu.

In the space of less than a week, King County Superior Court Judge Brian Gain had three opportunities to keep this murder suspect and arsonist off the streets. In all three he denied motions that would have kept Kalebu behind bars.

Four days after the last opportunity on July 10, Kalebu was linked to the attacks of two women in South Park. One of them was killed.

What could this judge have been thinking? Yes, a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. But in this case the suspect had a long history of violence and even his mother was afraid of him and didn’t want to be around him.

I hope Judge Gain thinks long and hard about this case and the opportunities he squandered to prevent a horrific crime.

— Dick Malloy, Seattle

Comments | More in courts, crime/justice, Mental illness, Public safety

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