The Diane Zamora burden U.S. Naval Academy: Murder conviction in Texas reflects nothing about Annapolis school.

February 23, 1998

YEARS FROM NOW, the linkage between Diane Zamora and the U.S. Naval Academy may be forgotten -- as it should be. Before and after the 20-year-old was sentenced last week to life in prison for the December 1995 murder of Adrianne Jones in Texas, the academy sought to place as much distance as possible between it and her. The school's motivation was understandable, but it need not apologize.

The horrendous crime had nothing to do with the institution in Annapolis, where Zamora was enrolled for two months. Never mind the TV reporter who tried unsuccessfully to persuade midshipmen walking through the state capital to comment on her conviction last week. They had nothing to do with her, and she had little to do with their school.

When Zamora was admitted to the academy, no one, including her family, had any idea that she had participated in Ms. Jones' murder. She appeared an ideal officer candidate. She was a success in high school and athletics and showed leadership qualities the Navy seeks. The admissions committee didn't know that Zamora was emotionally troubled. It couldn't ascertain her anger over the fact that her boyfriend, David Graham, a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet, had admitted to a tryst with her classmate. Nor did it know that she participated in Ms. Jones' murder. Once academy officials discovered Zamora had confessed the crime to fellow midshipmen, they contacted the appropriate law enforcement agency in Texas.

The academy was rightly skewered in past years for patterns of cheating, hazing and sexual offenses by its students, but it shouldn't bear shame for the Zamora case. No one thinks less of the Johns Hopkins University because Robert J. Harwood was about to graduate when he murdered Rex T. Chao there in April 1996. Neither should the Naval Academy be condemned for a crime far off campus.

It would be preposterous to suggest that the institution conduct psychological testing on every applicant admitted; that still wouldn't guarantee against a bizarre incident. Any fair-minded individual must conclude that Zamora's crime reflected her deeply troubled mind-set and nothing about the Naval Academy or its future officers. She and the school were simply ships passing in the night.

Pub Date: 2/23/98

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