After reading the letter, I had the following argument with myself:
DovBear: See! It's not a psak. You were misled by the newspapers. All the letter does is call on the public "to assist the Vales family and other rabbis who are doing their very best to bring justice and truth to light, and to prove that he is innocent of all wrongdoing, and to get him released from jail."
What's unusual or unreasonable about that? A show of support is not an exoneration and, like any other alleged murderer, Valis deserves the presumption of innocence. Even the apparent indifference to the victim which sounds so offensive to our ears (the Rabbis made no mention of the victim, or of his grieving relatives) is not alarming given the brevity and the tone of the letter.
DovBear: Slow down. I agree the text of the letter suggests that the newspaper erred when they called it a halachic decree, unfortunately the actions of at least one of the signatories points to another intention.
One of the rabbis [who signed the letter], speaking to Israel Radio, said that the basis for the decree was that Valis's wife was still supporting him, and that if he had indeed killed his son, she would not be at his side still.I still don't know who made this shaky argument, but it tells me that no matter what the letter says, the men who wrote it are convinced that Valis is innocent. That's fine, but it doesn't stop there: the leaders of Valis's community are on record calling the case a blood libel, and they accuse the authorities of using Inquisition techniques to coerce Valis's confession. I fully agree that Valis deserves a show of support, but the presumption of innocence, has to cut both ways. The police and the medical examiner are not our enemy, and there's no reason to think they abused their authority.
Anyway, the upshot of my internal dialogue is this: I am redirecting yesterday's criticism. Instead of finding fault with the Rabbis, I should have directed my questions at the newspapers for misrepresenting the Rabbi's intention, and also at that members of the Haredi community who think the letter exonerated Valis.