Banana-Republic Justice

November 18, 1994

Prosecution of criminals is supposed to be swift and fair, but the handling of the case against Jonathan T. Jarboe in Carroll County was anything but.

Not only did the prosecution -- with the acquiescence of Circuit Court Judges Francis Arnold and Raymond Beck -- keep Mr. Jarboe jailed for 179 days before dropping the charges, but county Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III's mishandling of a young, frightened witness apparently drove her into hiding.

In August 1993, a Westminster Domino's Pizza delivery man was robbed of $150 at gunpoint. Police did not have any suspects until Angela Bailey approached Westminster police a month later and told them that a friend of hers, Mr. Jarboe, boasted of committing the robbery. She demanded confidentiality in return for talking to investigators. They agreed.

On the basis of her information, Mr. Jarboe was arrested and charged. It appears Ms. Bailey's hearsay was all the evidence the prosecution had against Mr. Jarboe. The victim of the robbery couldn't identify him, and apparently there were no other witnesses. Rather than have the state's flimsy evidence questioned at a preliminary hearing, Mr. Walker had the grand jury indict Mr. Jarboe. Unable to meet bail, Mr. Jarboe was jailed.

In April, the prosecution met with Judge Beck and revealed that it could not locate Ms. Bailey and asked to postpone the trial date. Judge Beck granted the request. Mr. Jarboe's trial was set for July 7. Instead of trying the case, the prosecution asked for yet another postponement, saying it could not locate Ms. Bailey. Judge Arnold granted the request.

Mr. Jarboe's trial was set for Nov. 14. Instead of trying the case, Mr. Walker dropped the charges, a clear indication the state had no case against Mr. Jarboe from the beginning.

Mr. Jarboe is surely no saint. He has a record, but he also is entitled to the protection of the law. Mr. Walker manipulated the system to jail Mr. Jarboe for six months without obtaining a conviction.

In the United States, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case. In banana republics, the burden of proof is on the accused to prove his innocence. Mr. Jarboe was the unwilling recipient of Carroll County's special brand of banana-republic justice.

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