Justice for Mary and Dan
On 12-1-2010 the following letter was sent to those named at the bottom.  To me this issue is very important to the residents of St. Paul and all of Minnesota.  Hopefully you will find interest in the piece and be willing to help get attention to the cause. After the recent deaths of a mother and her two children it seems all the more important.  Thank you Mary Sanford
 
Good Morning,
 
     Your name was given to me by Lori Swanson to bring attention to an issue that I have with the St. Paul Police Department. It is my understanding that the Mayor along with the City Council appoint the Chief of Police.  He is ultimately responsible for the policies of that department and actions taken by his officers.  It is my opinion that on Aug 27th 2008 there was a terrible failure in that department.
     On that day our son, Dan Sanford and his girlfriend Mari Plaster were critically injured when an undercover and organized drug buy by the St. Paul Police went out of control. The resulting high-speed chase and crash crushed them between two parked cars. This resulted in Mari losing her left leg below the knee and our son having to have his left knee totally reconstructed which included a major muscle transplant and skin grafts. He has permanently lost a lot of function and feeling in that leg. Two productive kids who’s lives have been unnecessarily destroyed because of the actions of one ignorant drug dealer and errors preformed by the St. Paul Police Department in his apprehension.
     Up until today these kids have received no recognition that these injuries have even happened with the involvement of the St. Paul Police Department. There has been sympathy by all but no real explanation to our families.
     Their lawyer Mr. Patrick O’Neill has represented Dan and Mari in court only to be told that the police have immunity from responsibility and that they were basically “just doing their job.”  IMMUNITY? ! DOING THEIR JOBS? ! The arrogance of St. Paul and the St. Paul Police Department to think that the damages they cause are not their responsibility! The responsibility of the St. Paul Police Department is to Protect and to Serve the residents of St. Paul not be responsible, either directly or indirectly, in the permanent disfigurement and crippling of innocent kids.  These officers are trained professionals (?) who should have been able to successfully perform one simple task, the apprehension of ONE known drug dealer.
     On Aug. 27th this was NO response to a 911 call. NO PERSON was in danger until the police failed at the apprehension. There was no accident, murder, rape, assault, mugging or domestic.  This was an organized drug buy (their 2nd attempt) to apprehend one drug dealer.  They knew who he was and where to find him.  They knew he had a fast car and that he liked to flee.  Was the apprehension of one man at that place and time so important that they failed to think what could happen if he fled? THERE WAS NO BACK UP PLAN AT ALL! How many red flags must there be to change their plans? They do admit that the car that hit our children was that of the drug dealer.  Even though it wasn’t the police car involved in the direct impact,to say that the St. Paul Police Department is not responsible in any way in this outcome is ridiculous and insulting. Just by organizing the drug buy the officers began a chain of events that resulted in the crash. This makes them NO LESS an ACCOMPLISE to the final results.
     Police protection is an important part of our society.  The bad guys should be caught and punished, but what about those that are totally innocent and caught in the middle?  What about Police that fail to follow their own guidelines?  What about poor decisions on the part of the Police that start a chain of events that injure or kill an innocent by-stander?  Police cannot have total discretion and then total immunity from the consequences of their actions. We know that the police are human and that in the heat of the battle mistakes are made. Lapses in judgment that must be recognized and resolved.  There were mistakes made on August 27th and the results can be seen watching Mari and Dan walk.  These Officers as well as anyone else should be held responsible for the consequences of their actions.
     On behalf of the citizens of St. Paul I am asking that you as an elected official look into the policies of the St. Paul Department in regards to non-emergency police chases. There needs to be public discourse. There needs to be change. Something is wrong with a policy that allows the officers to think that they are always right and the consequences to innocent people DO NOT MATTER.  The argument that they stopped the police chase as quickly as they could is unacceptable. Their car was a lethal weapon and whether that chase lasted ten miles or one block they started a chase.  HOW DO YOU PUT A BULLET BACK INTO A GUN?  HOW DO YOU STOP A CRIMINAL WHEN THE POLICE HAVE STARTED A PERSUIT?   Dan and Mari will suffer for the rest of their lives with these consequences.  HUMAN LIFE HAS MORE VALUE THAN THIS.  This was an evening that should have ended safely in bed not in a hospital for months. An evening that should have ended walking away from that birthday party not speeding to the hospital in an ambulance to save their lives.
     We are looking for a champion.  Someone who is ethical, moral and has the courage to look at the system and realize that it is flawed. Someone needs to speak out for victims like Mari and Dan. No one should suffer for the rest of their life not only with the disfigurement but the emotional and financial difficulties this has created.
     I understand that you have other matters to deal with, but for someone this is or will be a matter of life or death. As a resident of St. Paul I am respectfully asking you as well as the Chief of Police to look into the actions of these officers and the policies that they claim to have followed. We need YOU THE ELECTED OFFICIALS to watch out for us the average citizen. To speak out for us. To protect the rights of innocent victims of a police policy that did not work.
      I do not need nor want your sympathy. There are no words to express the frustration, distrust and helplessness I feel in this matter.  As a resident of St Paul I want and deserve answers and action.  Answers not only for me but also for the next person or persons who are tragically injured or killed as the result of the same scenario. NO ONE is safe on the streets if as consequences to police actions innocent by-standers are injured or killed.  This is NOT ACCEPTABLE as part of their job.
     As a resident of St. Paul I expect that we hire the best officers that we can to HONORABLLY and HONESTLY follows the policies established by the Police Department and to be ACCOUNTABLE for the CONSEQUENCES of their actions either personally or as a member of the St. Paul Police force.
     As a concerned citizen of St. Paul and a resident of Como Park I need to know that you will check into this matter.  Pleasedo not just toss this aside. Do not just pass it along.  This was written to YOUR attention.
     We are not alone in this cause. We have created a web site for Dan and Mari and have linked it to a national site that also wants to stop unnecessary police chases.  Hopefully you will take my concerns seriously and take actions.  I am planning to post all responses to this letter on the site           as well as the names of those who do not respond. The public have the right to know how their elected officials feel about this matter.
     We are asking for a trial.  I would appreciate your support in this matter. We do not believe one judge or a 3-judge panel should settle the decisions that will affect the future of our children. We want the public to know all the details of this case. If the policies are correct and the police did nothing wrong there should be no problem. The police don’t have anything to hide do they? This is a case that will benefit from the public’s attention and discourse that a trial would encourage.  The public should have the right to know how the judicial system works for ALL the residents of St. Paul.  The criminal has had his day in court over and over again.  When will Mari and Dan have that chance?
     I also find it curious that basically few lawyers will even consider taking a case like this and that a judge seldom rules against the police.  Where do kids like Mari and Dan go to try and get justice?  They are victims of a crime too. We the families and loved ones of Dan and Mari are victims too. How much noise do we have to make for the city to admit that the St. Paul Police Department was an accomplice to this incident.
     We have filed an appeal to Judge Van de North’s decision.  One man should not have the power to decide the fate of these two innocent victims of this crime.  YES I SAID VICTIM AND YES I SAID CRIME. They are the victims of poorly conducted police work and a judicial system that failed to give a voice to the innocent.
 
Thank you for your attention and I will be watching for a response.
A copy of this letter will also be posted on our web site for comments and support
 
 
Copies of this letter have also been sent to
Chief Thomas E, Smith   651-266-5588
Mayor Christopher Coleman   651-266-8510
Mark Dayton 651-201-3400
Melvin Carter III   651-266-8610
Russ Stark   651-266-8640
Dan Bostrom   651-266-8660
Kathy Lantry   651-266-8670
Dave Thune   651-266-8620
Dee Helgen   651-266-8650
Pat Harris   651-266-8630
Neil Melton   651-643-3060
Representative John Lesch   651-296-4224
Senator Ellen R. Anderson   651-296-5537
And others the be decided

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Dear Professor,
 
     Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read this letter.
    
     The future lawyers and judges of our legal system are educated in institutions of learning such as yours.  The following plea is that you, your schools professors and students will find the information in this letter intriguing enough to incorporate it into a classroom discussion.  In doing so my hope is that our case or future similar cases can receive benefit from your interest.
 
     My name is Mary Sanford and at the age of 60 plus I have been forced into the world of Law and I really don’t like what I am finding.  I grew up believing that our legal system was there for all. A system to punish those guilty of a crime and to give justice to the innocent and exploited in our society regardless of race, color or creed and that those in the Legal and Judicial Systems are moral and ethical and within their souls want to stop injustice in our society.
     I want to believe that justice is blind but what I am finding is that the Legal and Judicial systems are so interwoven that ordinary people who look to them for justice cannot find it.
      Lawyers are the legal system’s watchdog to protect individuals and their rights from being abused by a system of power. What I am finding is far from equality, far from the balance of the scales of justice. 
     IMMUNITY.  That word conviently used by the City of St. Paul guarantees that there can be no justice for the innocent bystanders injured during the apprehension of a criminal. When officers of the St. Paul Police Department can use their own “discretion” and conveniently interpret and alter their department policies during a pursuit, lives of innocent residents can be destroyed with no chance of explanation or recourse during a trail.  When innocent children stand before a Judge expecting to receive their day in court only to be told that losing a leg or being crippled for life was unfortunately a consequence of “the officer just doing his job” how is this justice?  How can the legal systems allow such a horrible use of unquestionable power with no consequences?
     In the enclosed articles or on the web site you will see what I am talking about.  If the City of St. Paul can turn their backs on their responsibilities to Mari and Dan there is no soul in our city government.  If as agents of the City of St. Paul the police created the situation that resulted in this outcome the officers and the Police Department are at least accomplices to the tragedy of that night.  A tragedy that Mari and Dan and their families live with every day.
     We need lawyers who are not afraid to stand up for the truly innocent?  To speak out. To stand up against the powers of our city and state governments. To punish those guilty of a crime not those innocently caught up in the consequences. To help find closure in the lives of the injured and families destroyed by a system that injures them and then turns their backs to them to cope with the emotional, physical and financial complications that it was part of.
      Mari and Dan’s case is unique.  Very few cases are out there relating to the circumstances of how Mari and Dan were injured. The ambiguous rules and regulations of the police department, individual interpretations of those rules and regulations by the involved police officers, nor the cowardice of the Judge to find any fault with those officers creates little faith in getting justice for innocent people when the government is involved.
      We do have a lawyer who took this case as a personal favor to one of the families and did so warning us from the start that it would be an uphill struggle.  If not for his attempts where would Mari and Dan or anyone innocently hurt or killed by inadequate or improper police work find council? When the scales of justice and unlimited finances are so over-whelming tipped in favor of City Hall my guess that they would not and would be denied justice.
     Mari and Dan are innocent victims of this crime and deserve their day in court. The criminal has had his day in court over and over again and he is a guilty. What about those who are innocent and only want their suit heard in front of a jury of their piers, not just in front of one judge to interpret the law to his satisfaction. To prevent Mary and Dan from their day in front of those that caused so much pain and injury in a court of law is unethical.
     As you can see we are in a very frustrating and surreal place. Our society is in desperate need of lawyers who have a conscience and a soul and are willing to step forward and help those in desperate need of justice from our own judicial system.     
 
The following is the case information
      
District Court
Second Judicial District
State of Minnesota
County of Ramsey
August 4th 2010
Judge John B. Van de North, Jr.
Court File No. 62-CV-09-8982
 
With great appreciation for your time and interest,

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