Misdirected and Misinformed City Grand JuryIn 1987, I took...


April 17, 1993

Misdirected and Misinformed City Grand Jury

In 1987, I took an oath before God and the citizens of Maryland to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to be faithful to the state of Maryland. The recent report by a grand jury implying that my staff and I have not lived up to that oath represents a blind irresponsibility that exceeds the ills complained of in the report.

In recent weeks, The Sun published articles relating to the conclusions of a grand jury report that the state's attorney's office and the Baltimore City police department were not effectively enforcing narcotics laws because of racial bias and .. "special consideration" given to prominent individuals. The report's conclusion is false and inconsistent.

Grand juries are comprised of 23 citizens selected from the voter registration lists of Baltimore City. They normally serve a term of four months during which time they assess evidence relating to various types of crimes in order to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that a crime has been committed.

The presentation of that evidence is usually assisted by an attorney or prosecutor who understands the difference between raw intelligence data and evidence which can establish probable cause. The May 1992 term grand jury had no counsel for its review of narcotics enforcement issues.

A grand jury can return an indictment by a majority vote. Occasionally, a grand jury can study or survey a particular issue. By law, a grand jury's investigation and deliberations are secret.

The May 1992 term grand jury undertook a survey in the area of narcotics enforcement pursuant to Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Johnson's charge, or instruction.

That grand jury and its report did not charge anyone with a crime. Judge Johnson's charge suggested that narcotics enforcement was racially biased and that he had not seen a single case involving a drug dealer at the wholesale level.

Judge Johnson is misinformed.He is only one of 25 Circuit Court judges. There are other judges who have seen and have sentenced wholesale drug dealers.

Last May, I wrote Judge Johnson and the grand jury and informed them that in the preceding two years, this office had prosecuted several significant wholesalers in state court, and jointly with the U.S. Attorney's office in federal court.

Those prosecutions included:

Saida Vargas and Thomas Troutfeltor (and 17 co-defendants); Robert Torrain and Edward Phillips (and 26 co-defendants); Gustavo Delacruz (and 11 co-defendants); Billy Guy (and 40 co-defendants); the J.C. Harris organization (and 22 co-defendants); Michael Cheeks (and 13 co-defendants); Herbert Alston (and 6 co-defendants); Barry Henderson; Helen Duprez, and the recently concluded "China White" case.

Moreover, I personally prosecuted the case of a major dealer, Linwood Williams. That case ultimately resulted in dramatic improvements in state/federal financial information gathering.

Judge Johnson's charge also ignored the unfortunate fact that Baltimore is no different from any other metropolitan city in regard to the national trends involving minority arrests with respect to drug offenses.

According to the American Bar Association, minority arrests nationwide between the years 1986 and 1991 increased more than non-minority arrests for all offenses -- 23 percent minority compared to 10 percent non-minority -- and even more for drug arrests -- 57 percent minority compared to 6 percent non minority. In 1991 alone, minorities accounted for appreciably greater proportions of arrests than they had in 1986 -- 31 percent of all arrests and 42 percent of drug arrests.

These results are not because of policies dictated by me but are rather the result of the national policies of the past 12 years.

This office and I cooperated with the Baltimore grand jury's survey to every extent possible.

However, because of statements made by the judge in charge of the grand jury, apparent leaks of information and the lack of legal counsel for the grand jury, it became clear that the process was tainted and that an opportunity for an unbiased examination of issues in drug enforcement changed the grand jury's inquiry into a caldron of management-labor disputes within the police department.

In November 1992, I submitted a 12-page letter to the then-extended grand jury explaining, at length, the international and local challenges to narcotics enforcement, especially highlighting the lack of resources for this office documented by the City Bar Association in its reports in 1990 and 1991.

While crime has increased nearly 10 percent in each category for the past five years, this office's budget has risen an average of only 6 percent during the same period. This year, this office's budget is only .01 percent of the city's overall budget. You cannot pursue multinational crime with small-town funding.

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