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Was it the pepper spray?
I found the article "What Happened in Cell 15?" [Jan. 9] a brilliant expose of the Warren Correctional Institution's alleged responsibility in the death of Toney Moore. I do wish the author had further explored Moore's claim that an entire can of pepper spray had been sprayed into his mouth by the arresting officer from the Granville County Police Department.

When I read the article I wanted to know more about the possibility that Toney died from ingestion of an organic solvent in pepper spray. According to Spray Technology & Marketing, Vol. 7, No. 8, August 1997, pp. 44-50, trichloromethylene is the "generic" solvent for pepper sprays. There are a number of other toxic solvents used in pepper spray including, more commonly, methylene chloride.

As a former toxicology research assistant I have been able to find numerous case studies on Medline that connect acute trichloroethylene (Tri) and methylene chloride poisoning by ingestion with renal failure. The Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) clearly state the dangers of ingesting such solvents. When ingested, Tri and methylene chloride may cause such ailments as myoglobinuria and acute tubal failure. When left untreated, such ailments may lead to renal failure and death.

The obscurity of such medical and chemical data leads me to doubt that Toney Moore invented a story about being pepper sprayed in the mouth. The obscurity of such information is corroborated by the failure of his nurses to check the possibility of poisoning from pepper spray despite his symptoms and allegations. Moore's claim appears to be further corroborated by the evidence of his ailment and death.

Of course, it is uncertain whether the pepper spray was directly dispensed into Moore's mouth. If so, the remaining and relevant questions are: What were the specific ingredients used in the can? Did the autopsy seek any evidence of poisoning? Does the GCPD train their officers on how to "properly" use pepper spray?

I do not mean to suggest anything is really "proper" about pepper spray; 70 nations have found sufficient reason to ban the substance. Even if we are to consider pepper spray acceptable, it's one thing to pepper spray a person in the eyes but quite another to dispense a can's entire contents down a person's throat.

Simply stated, Moore's kidney failure may have been caused by his ingestion of pepper spray. The possibility of pepper spray as the cause of Toney Moore's death warrants further investigation. The Moore family deserves to know.
--PATRICK HERRON, PITTSBORO

I dare you all
I still shudder to think that I almost did not see I Am Sam because of Mr. Godfrey Cheshire's insensitivity and public display of an apparently hardened heart ["Missing Children," Jan. 23]. Fortunately, a friend insisted I see the film despite the "no star" rating G.C. gave it. I'm grateful I listened.

When I emerged from the showing of I Am Sam, I asked for a phone book at the concession stand, went straight to a phone, desperate to talk to Cheshire directly. I needed to understand what kind of human being could witness the performances of Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning and Dianne Wiest, to name a few, and describe the film as a "cloying melodrama."

OK, I'd have to hand it to him--sometimes life, real life, which is often stranger than fiction, feels melodramatic.

But to read Cheshire's perception that the notion of a father (any father!) losing custody of his daughter equates with "a ticket to instant insulin shock" led me to many more assumptions about Cheshire than the movie, I Am Sam. I wanted to know where he had been all his life. I would have asked him if he'd ever lost anything? More importantly, was there nothing in his life that he values enough (other than his own opinion) that the thought of losing might trigger at least sadness, if not an "unbearable" situation?

I called him and spoke with his mother. Godfrey was in Iran.

My curiosity about the emotional insulation this man maintains might never be satisfied. But one thing was clear: I would never read his opinion about a movie again, not to mention trust it.

Then another thought came to me, someone who carries the Indy's voting guide to the poles just in case I forget a name: The paper cannot afford to have such an irresponsible reviewer contributing to their publication. Hundreds of Indy readers might miss this movie (and who knows how many other films) because of Cheshire's review. Not only unfortunate, but a potentially dangerous thought.

Readers beware! Yes, I Am Sam is sad. It is also hilarious and real. Of course, the movie is not perfect. But when a plot and performances so honest can be described by someone as "nauseating," "buckets of schmaltz," "saccharine and gag-inducing sentimentality," you might just consider that person's fear might be more deeply rooted than Cheshire's acclaimed "fear of insulin shock."

Perhaps it is a fear of being vulnerable, a fear of feeling or, worse yet, expressing deep emotion. Then again, it could be as simple as a fear of reality.

I dare you to see it.
--MAGGIE GRACE, CHAPEL HILL

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