Laurels & lances: Habeas corpus, handshakes, hard topics
Laurel: To pursuing the law despite the obstacles. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has charged Douglas Berry with homicide in the case of Elizabeth Wiesenfeld despite the fact that the 67-year-old Baldwin woman’s body has not been found.
The law may be built on a premise of habeas corpus, meaning “having the body,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean the body of the presumed deceased. Zappala believes the evidence exists to merit criminal charges.
A murder charge without a body isn’t the kind of case that gets filed every day, and it isn’t an easy argument, but it is an important one. It underscores that a crime is a crime, regardless of how evidence might be obscured.
Berry still gets his day in court, and he will get his defense. But the charges give Wiesenfeld her day, too.
Lance: To doing the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. That place is a courtroom, and the time is when someone comes in front of you as a defendant.
On Wednesday, Westmoreland County District Judge Charles Moore ordered suspended Pirates pitcher Felipe Vazquez held without bail in the child sex allegations he is facing. But before that, he shook the baseball player’s hand.
Moore did his job. But shaking hands with a sports figure at the outset of his criminal appearance — standing there in handcuffs and a jail uniform far different than his Pirates black-and-gold — does not set an impartial tone.
Laurel: To tackling tough topics. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but while most of Lindsey Williams’ colleagues in Western Pennsylvania were holding senior fairs — give grandma a cup of coffee, a cookie and literature on PACE and rent rebates — the first-term state Democratic senator from West View was looking at her district and decided to take the Senate Democratic Caucus up on its offer to pull together Addiction Resources Open Houses.
Serving individuals, families and communities battling this scourge, Williams held her first open house in a Brackenridge firehall this week. Her colleague Pam Iovino (another newcomer to the state Senate) did likewise in Bridgeville.