Explaining Bevilacqua questioning

Monica Yant Kinney asked why Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was questioned in private at his home, instead of in open court ("Bevilacqua's abuse testimony should have been public," Wednesday). I have no involvement in the case, but I can explain why this usually happens.

If a witness might be unavailable when a criminal case is tried, court rules provide for questioning in advance to preserve the testimony. The lawyers examine and cross-examine the witness, with the judge and defendants present. The testimony can be videotaped and played back for the jury at trial. This is done most frequently when a witness is in poor health. If the witness is unable to travel, it can be done in a hospital or the witness' home.

When the trial is held, the recorded testimony may be offered by either side. At that point, it is as public as live testimony by other witnesses.

It has been reported that Bevilacqua has both cancer and dementia. It would be reasonable to assume that he was questioned at his home for those reasons, to preserve his testimony for trial. If so, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina simply followed the established rules, with ample justification.

A court has discretion to preclude public disclosure of preserved testimony before the trial. That is sometimes done to avoid exposing potential jurors to inadmissible evidence or predisposing them to one side or the other. It may also be done to avoid influencing witnesses with each other's testimony.

Waiting until trial to satisfy the public's "right to know" is not different from what happens when a witness appears in person. That wait is a small price to pay for protecting everyone's right to a fair trial.

Rudolph Garcia, chancellor, Philadelphia Bar Association, Philadelphia

Nurse cutbacks hurt students

More school nurse positions have been eliminated ("More cuts for city schools," Friday), on top of positions that were axed in June. A School District spokesman was quoted as saying "cuts were made in a way which will allow us to keep current service levels for schools that have medically fragile students." That statement is not based in reality. Schools are not what they were 20 years ago.

Asthmatic students, as well as those with diabetes, seizure disorders, and potentially fatal allergies are just a few examples of the kind of students who are in most schools and are all medically fragile. School nurses provide for and supervise their care. In some cases, the school nurse may be the only health-care provider the child has access to. This devastating cut in medical services puts the health and welfare of our smallest, most vulnerable citizens at risk. The children of Philadelphia don't deserve this.

Patricia A. Westerfer, Philadelphia

Clean sweep should include Corbett

The Inquirer supports the quick firing of Joe Paterno ("Recovery takes right steps," Sunday), but what about Gov. Corbett? For three years, Corbett, as attorney general, led an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct of Jerry Sandusky. His defense - "the one thing you do not want to do as a prosecutor is go on one case" - does not ring true here. I suppose Corbett believes that one child molestation is not enough to take action. The irony is that Corbett sits on the board of trustees of Penn State, which ultimately voted to fire Paterno for his inaction concerning Sandusky. Maybe the clean sweep to recovery should also include Corbett.

Rita Berkowitz, Malvern

Share the Marcellus Shale wealth

Watching all the to and fro on shale and fracking and the energy bonanza that awaits us, it dawned on me that Pennsylvanians ought to take a page from the patron saint of the tea party ("Frack-ture lines," Sunday). Yes, the ever-lovable Sarah Palin. Just as Alaskans get periodic checks in the mail from the state's energy bonanza, citizens of the Keystone State ought to get the same deal. Of course, the oil companies up north are not "taxed" (God forbid!) but happily pay fees or royalties. Their stockholders are very happy indeed. Gov. Corbett, are you listening?

Joe McGuire, Mount Laurel