Better tried by 12 than carried by sixTo paraphrase...

the Forum

March 11, 1994

Better tried by 12 than carried by six

To paraphrase Dickens, our justice systems is an ass. It only works when it feels like it, or when you force it to, and then only with much prodding and struggle.

The villains are protected while the victim is a bound, gagged and blindfolded so as not to violate anyone's rights.

When a perpetrator is convicted, the sentence is usually light. Rape will get you 18 months, armed robbery two years, murder eight years.

If you kill someone while driving intoxicated you get three years supervised probation and no record under probation before judgment.

A friend and I were walking on Jeffery Street in Brooklyn last October.

We were approached by a young man who claimed we knew each other. He told us he had "that good rock." We told him that we didn't know him, nor did we want any.

He became belligerent and said he wanted a smoke. My friend told him that if he could afford drugs he could buy his own.

When my friend said no, the youth turned and said "I oughta just bust you right now!" He put one hand in the pocket of his pants and mimicked pointing a gun at my friend's head with the other. He then trotted into an alley.

We were angry, then concerned. It was dark and we were far from our destination.

When we arrived at my friend's house we called the police, who asked, "What do you want us to do?" Eventually they sent a patrol car over.

When the officer arrived he said he thought he knew who the youth was, and that he was probably carrying drugs and possibly a handgun. He said that if he found him he would pick him up, but that he would be right back out because the judges had been told that there was no room to house such petty criminals.

So this thug would be inconvenienced for a night, then be back out the next day with a grudge for the ones who interrupted his business.

A law-abiding citizen has to make some hard choices today. The police have stated that they cannot protect us individually, they can only police society as a whole. So if you cannot obtain a permit to carry a firearm you go unprotected.

I will do my utmost to obey society's laws. But I will be tried by 12 before I'm carried by six.

Lawrence D. Lease


More zeros please

Hardly any public outcry was heard recently on the issue of the balanced budget amendment, even though the subject was duly reported in the newspapers.

Have we decided it's fun to spend away our childrens' money? Or is it just ignorance?

Even the illiterate recognize $100. Many know $1,000, and a few of us even know about $1 million.

But only Members of Congress know about $4 trillion ($4,000,000,- 000,000), which is our current national debt.

We need one more law: Whenever a million, a billion or a trillion is written anywhere it should be followed by the appropriate number of zeros.

Perhaps that way we will be sensitized again to the magnitude of what is being talked about.

Fred Mott


Fatal fire wasn't BG&E's fault

I commend Baltimore Gas & Electric for its quick response to the recent tragic fire in the city.

The company has risen to the challenge by recognizing hardship cases and acting accordingly. It has been doing this kind of service for years through its Gatekeeper program for the elderly and by keeping the gas on in winter for families who cannot pay their energy bills.

However, let's remember that even BG&E can go only so far. It is not a social service agency and cannot carry large numbers of non-paying customers forever.

I am concerned that BG&E may be used as a scapegoat for a problem we all know exists -- those who want gas and electricity but cannot, and in some cases will not, pay for it.

Joy Shillman


Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. should not be held responsible for the tragic loss of life in the horrific rowhouse fire last month.

According to BG&E spokesman Arthur Sluzark, the adults living in the overcrowded house had been contacted many times about making payment on their utility bill.

I believe BG&E would have worked with this household to rectify their account if they had made any effort to contact BG&E and resolve the matter.

All public companies make their money from use of their product; good publicity doesn't hurt, either. BG&E had nothing to gain and a lot to lose when it decided to turn off the gas and electricity.

I feel sorry for all those children who had no say and became innocent victims.

While we should not pass judgment on others' actions, it is the adults who lived in the house who must answer for what was not done to protect those children.

Ruth M. Fleishman


Capital crime

I am generally a fan of Wiley Hall,but I feel his commentary about the death penalty was simplistic and off target ("For Justice Blackmun, passion and conscience," March 1).

The death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime; no punishment really does because no criminal really believes that he will be caught.

I do not steal my neighbor's car or shoot his obnoxious kid for fear I will go to jail. I refrain from doing these things because it would be unacceptable in our society. The fundamental issue is one of social responsibility.

Individuals who repeatedly deny others their right to a peaceful life have abrogated our obligations to them. They should be removed from the population.

The standards for where the line is drawn must be decided by society as a whole, but if a person goes beyond what we agree is acceptable we no longer owe that person anything.

Since there are no longer prison islands for us to ship criminals to, humane execution is the unhappy alternative we are left with.

The issue is punishment. What six-year-old does not know that he will be punished for misbehaving? If you abrogate your responsibilities to society you will be punished.

Dave Walcher


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