No evidence that Lee slaying was racialRecent columns in...

LETTERS

February 21, 1997

No evidence that Lee slaying was racial

Recent columns in The Sun have questioned the decision of federal prosecutors not to pursue civil rights charges in the killing of Joel Lee. One column even suggested that this was a catalyst for the recent wave of violence against the Korean-American community. These sensational assertions are wrong, disappointing and irresponsible.

While scrutiny and criticism of government decisions are prerogatives of a free press, they should be based on a basic understanding of the requirements of the law, and an appreciation for the fact-finding and decision-making process of the Department of Justice.

The murder of Joel Lee is a tragedy without justice, at least in the realm of our legal system. The Justice Department, through the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI and the Civil Rights Division, undertook an extensive investigation to determine whether this killing was racially motivated and could be prosecuted under federal criminal rights laws. We did not find credible evidence that Joel Lee was killed because of his race and thus could not bring a case under federal civil-rights statutes.

Contrary to the perception of Sun columnists, the federal government does not have blanket jurisdiction over every criminal act. Most crimes are solely within the purview of state and local prosecutors. In this case, the state's attorney and the police department were the first to consider whether the killing was racially motivated, but found no credible evidence. Neither did we.

The Department of Justice has an obligation to dispassionately seek justice. We cannot contort the law to fulfill our personal or public sense of justice. To do so destroys all credibility and demeans our entire community.

Lynne A. Battaglia

Baltimore

9- The writer is U.S. attorney for Maryland.

Higher tobacco tax public policy winner

It looks like business as usual in Annapolis. The governor proposes, the legislature opposes.

In this case, the governor has proposed a tax on tobacco to fund an income tax cut -- an idea of flawless logic. Reactionary legislators have attacked the idea, apparently because the governor said it first -- or legislators are more responsive to lobbyists.

A tobacco tax is popular with voters. It would save lives, raise revenue and decrease health care spending. Enlightened legislators support it.

It remains for Senate President Mike Miller to ''lead'' by getting out of the way of good public policy.

Rodney A. Johnson

Baltimore

'Uncle Tom's Cabin' deserves to be read

As Black History Month is being celebrated, there is no American novel that I am aware of that did more to change the course of American history or to sever the chains enslaving thousands of black Americans than "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Harriet Beecher Stowe deserves to be celebrated as much as Alex Haley or Langston Hughes as a writer of and contributor to the African-American experience.

Stowe's novel did not create the Civil War or the Emancipation Proclamation, nor did it put an end to the disenfranchisement of black Americans. But one thing is for sure: it was a novel read around the world and is even to this day.

Jamie Blount

Baltimore

Five-year Clinton hunt with nothing to show

Now that Kenneth Starr has given up his campaign to discredit the Clintons, I am reminded of a fact that has been perhaps overlooked: For nearly five years now, the Republicans and a section of the press have conducted a relentless, virulent attack on the president and his wife, a private citizen.

With almost daily accusations of wrongdoing, financial and personal, their armies of lawyers, spending millions of taxpayer dollars, have left many Americans with the impression that the Clintons are somehow morally tainted.

The overlooked fact is that, with all this concentrated effort, with the scare headlines and the cluckings of columnists and the venom of self-appointed talk-show judges, not a single accusation has ever been proved, not a single charge has ever been filed against the Clintons.

Michael Kernan

Baltimore

Physicians should use medicine, not religion

In regard to your Feb. 13 article concerning doctors who promote religion as part of their medical treatment, I would like to say I have been through three major operations recently without the benefit of "a god" and handled them rather well.

As an atheist with a Roman Catholic background, I would find Dr. Patrick Walsh's admonishment to "rediscover God" offensive and would probably request a new physician.

I prefer my doctors to recommend only proven medical treatments and leave the speculative areas alone.

M. Carole Holmes

Baltimore

National Guard pilots are not flying cowboys

I am an F-16 pilot and director of operations for an Air National Guard unit. I am also a Boeing 737 captain for USAir. I have the following comments on the Feb. 12 Associated Press article on the Air Force resuming training flights:

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