Issue 501 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


The interrogation method of questioning a suspect in an accusatory fashion, which Richard A. Leo describes in “The Whole Truth” [interview by Mark Leviton, July 2017], is referred to as the Reid technique. It’s infamous for getting false confessions. One of its developers built his career on the conviction of a man named Darryl Parker, who was wrongly accused of murder and spent years in prison before being exonerated.

Police have even used this unethical and deceptive technique on crime victims. Aaron Quinn and his girlfriend, Denise Huskins, suffered a home invasion, assault, and robbery in which both were forcibly sedated and Huskins was kidnapped. The police decided Quinn had murdered Huskins, and during the interrogation they would not allow him to talk to a lawyer, provided little food and water, forced him to wear a prison jumpsuit, and so on. Quinn did not confess, and when Huskins eventually turned up alive, the police denounced the couple as liars and planned to prosecute them for the “hoax” — until their assailant perpetrated a similar home invasion in a neighboring suburb.

The Reid technique was also used on a woman named Marie who, after a childhood of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, suffered a home invasion and a prolonged sexual assault. The police accused her of false reporting, interrogated her, and threatened to jail her if she failed a polygraph test. Ignorant of her rights, Marie falsely confessed that she’d lied about the assault. She was prosecuted, forced to pay a fine, and given a year of probation. The criminal who raped Marie was eventually apprehended in another state with pictures of Marie in his possession. She sued and won a settlement.

Most Western European countries have stopped using the Reid technique, but here in the U.S. it is being taught to school principals, private security firms, and employers.

Susan Hilde Minneapolis, Minnesota

Richard A. Leo ably conveys the damage done to the innocent who endure police interrogations, but I’d like to point out an additional problem: the real perpetrator of the crime is still out there. When the defendant is exonerated, we seldom hear of law enforcement going back to solve the case. Police and prosecutors may want a conviction more than they want justice.

Al Cooke Pittsboro, North Carolina

I’m going on my thirty-third year in a California prison, where I will remain “for the duration” (as we say). I read with wonder Michael Fischer’s essay “Willie” [July 2017]. He describes well the dreams, fantasies, and hopes men in here hold about the lives that await us on the outside. I am sure most of us know they are just that: dreams. We imagine an ideal future to combat the alienation, sadness, and frustration of being in prison.

Jack Kerouac said, “What’s heaven? What’s earth? All in the mind.” If you are unable to find freedom where you are, you will surely not find it somewhere else.

Scott Peters Tehachapi, California

As a nurse practitioner who volunteers at Homeboy Industries’ tattoo-removal clinic in Los Angeles, I was surprised and thrilled with your July 2017 cover, which features Joseph Rodriguez’s close-up of a heavily tattooed former inmate who also works for Homeboy.

For most of our clients, removing their tattoos is an important first step. Many have gone through imprisonment, alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse, and neglect. These tattoos once symbolized belonging to a family, and the decision to remove them often comes after years of self-reflection and the painful process of leaving gang life behind.

Valli Cohen Pasadena, California

I appreciate the thoughtful pieces you’ve published about animals and our interactions with them, especially Eaton Hamilton’s essay “Skinning the Rabbit” [July 2017].

For five years my husband and I kept animals for meat, eggs, and dairy on our organic farm. We saw firsthand that animals have feelings, thoughts, relationships, and curiosity about the world. Raising livestock was emotionally taxing work, and eventually we shut down that side of our operation. My husband explained to our disappointed customers, “When we do our job wrong, animals die. When we do our job right, animals eventually die.”

He and I still struggle with how to reconcile our consumption of animal products with our view of ourselves and animals as co-inhabitants of the world.

Eating and living right in this world is hard.

Katie Kulla Dayton, Oregon

My primary-care physician treats three to four thousand patients. Like the specialists Rachel Weaver sees in her quest for diagnosis and relief [“Dizzy,” July 2017], my doctor has just a few minutes for each appointment, most of which she spends tapping out boilerplate assessments and advice on a computer. She rarely touches me or makes eye contact. She diligently answers my e-mails but doesn’t remember who I am.

When I can afford it, I see a holistic practitioner who is trained in chiropractic, cranio-sacral therapy, homeopathy, kinesiology, and nutrition. She spends ninety minutes listening, talking, and laughing with me, and also laying her hands on my body. When none of the physicians I consulted could diagnose a perplexing array of symptoms, she identified the underlying hormone problem and helped me find relief.

Healthcare is a misnomer for the impersonal medical-pharmaceutical-insurance complex our society has created. Until we find our way to a saner system, it hardly matters how well-intentioned our doctors are; they will be prevented from giving us true care.

Sarah Rabkin Soquel, California

As the mother of a fifty-eight-year-old daughter who has struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder for decades, I found Arnie Cooper’s interview with Maia Szalavitz [“Hooked,” June 2017] eye-opening. I’m sharing it with everyone I know who blames addicts for what has happened to them.

Rosemary Daniell Savannah, Georgia

Thank you for running the interview with Maia Szalavitz. As Michelle Alexander describes in her book The New Jim Crow, the U.S. war on drugs is actually a war on poor people, mostly people of color. That war has generated the largest prison population in the world, both per capita and in raw numbers. It has also stopped almost all research on the therapeutic uses for psychotropic drugs such as ecstasy and LSD, even though ecstasy may be effective in dealing with PTSD and micro-dosing LSD might help patients deal with serious dementia like Alzheimer’s.

David Baker Pinole, California

Robert Bitsko’s essay “Missed Call” [June 2017] cracked my heart wide open.

Tara Kline Davis, California

Sera Davidow’s responses to the letters regarding her interview [Correspondence, June 2017] were gracious. How compassionate of her to let others know she has suffered and overcome her suffering.

Mary Jo Fletcher Monroe, Oregon

Joe Hutto’s passion for wildlife is evident, and his interaction with the natural world goes deeper than the average person’s [“A Walk on the Wild Side,” interview by Al Kesselheim, May 2017], but he paints a dark picture of hunters and wildlife agencies as corrupt and unconcerned with the well-being of animals. Without those agencies, as well as thousands of conservation groups in the U.S., the ecosystems we have maintained these past hundred years would fall apart. Hunters pay $1.6 billion every year to protect these wild places. It’s unfair to blame the tragedies he has witnessed on all hunters, many of whom are just as passionate about nature as Hutto.

Greg Krieger Winnemucca, Nevada
Joe Hutto responds:

I would never imply that hunters or wildlife agencies are corrupt, and I regret that you perceive I did. I have been a lifelong hunter, attributing much of my passion for the natural world to that experience. Further I have worked as an outfitter and guide, and have been employed by state and federal agencies as a research biologist. No one has more regard for these dedicated public servants than me.

In general wildlife agencies do not make game laws but rather give recommendations to legislators and governors. So do lobbyists or so-called stakeholders, who may not prioritize the long-term interest of a species. Wildlife should not be considered a currency with which to garner votes or revenue.

As to the decline of ecosystems, the blame can always be laid squarely at the feet of humanity. Invariably we are the cause: all of us who, even unknowingly, compete with the fragile life that surrounds us. We all bear the responsibility to improve things when and where we can.

About two months ago, as I stepped onto a treadmill at the gym, I noticed your magazine lying on the floor. Since I hadn’t brought any reading material to divert me from the rigors of exercise, I picked it up and read Leath Tonino’s interview with Craig Childs [“The Skeleton Gets Up and Walks,” June 2016]. I was hooked. The next day I subscribed.

Having now read every page of four issues, I can’t imagine — at seventy-five years of age — not having The Sun in my life. I recycle most magazines after a few months, but I’m keeping every issue of your magazine. I may read them again or share them with friends. And when I die, my children, if they have any sense, will have my old issues to enjoy.

Linda Cunningham Salt Lake City, Utah
Free Trial Issue Are you ready for a closer look at The Sun?

Request a free trial, and we’ll mail you a print copy of this month’s issue. Plus you’ll get full online access — including 50 years of archives.
Request A Free Issue