Justice system flaws let offenders go free, spoils police...

Letters to the Editor

February 11, 1999

Justice system flaws let offenders go free, spoils police work

Regarding the article "Seemingly solid case evaporates" (Feb. 4):

Once again, the criminal justice system has failed its constituents, and two alleged criminals are free to continue their chosen trade.

These gentlemen are repeat offenders, and if true to form, will most certainly repeat again.

Apparently, several factors came to bear on this travesty of justice. Everything from an incompetent state's attorney and her incompetent deputies, to judges who just won't participate, resulted in freeing these men.

If we truly had a criminal justice system, all the players would be in sync with the problem, and all would pull together to avoid such disgraceful acts as freeing these men.

Surely the judges, above almost anyone else, know of the horrendous backlog, and they should want to do whatever is necessary to dispose of those cases involving armed robbers, murderers and other dangerous felons. Apparently, one judge felt the need to attend a seminar rather than put those criminals away for their misdeeds.

Those who live in the surrounding counties shouldn't gloat at the city's failure. Who knows where freed felons will perpetrate their next crime?

Another question: Where is Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier on this issue? Should his officers continue to risk their lives to apprehend dangerous armed felons, only to see them released because of incompetence and malfeasance on the part of prosecutors and the courts? And, if so, why? Where is their support?

Of course, the officers need to continue to do their jobs. And, just as important, they need their commissioner to let others in this system know that he does not appreciate the unnecessary risks his officers incur because of incompetence.

Robert Lee DiStefano, Abingdon

The writer is a retired major of the Baltimore City Police Department.

Correct justice problems at the early stages

I have read Neal R. Peirce's Opinion Commentary ("Poignant letters from American jails," Feb. 2) regarding deplorable prison conditions and overcrowding and have followed the recent Sun articles on clogged courts dismissing serious cases. One step toward a solution to these problems is before the Maryland General Assembly.

The "smart courts" bill, as explained in Doug Colbert's Perspective article ("Attorneys at bail hearing would unclog the court system," Jan. 17) would help alleviate the overcrowding and stress on the criminal justice system from the beginning by providing for public defenders and prosecutors at bail review.

More than nine out of 10 of the 210,000 individuals arrested last year were prosecuted in District Court. As the caseload of nonviolent misdemeanors swells, providing lawyers at the bail hearings would save taxpayer dollars by preventing the expensive incarceration of people for one or two months before their trials.

Mr. Peirce points out that incarceration demeans people's dignity and self-respect.

Although he targets longer-term violent offenders in his piece, minor offenders are affected, too.

Baltimoreans and their families become embittered against a system that jails them before trial for offenses such as passing off an out-of-date light rail ticket, driving on a suspended license or stealing six sausages.

In addition to the negative psychological consequences, poor and working-class people are forced to spend 30 to 60 days in jail, they risk losing their jobs, their family and support systems are strained and they often are forced to pay bail bondsmen money that should go to their families.

Many of these people, not to mention their relatives and employers, would benefit from having concerned prosecutors and defense attorneys analyze and negotiate, which would serve society better through pretrial release.

Jason D. Tulley, Baltimore

Unsettling, inaccurate depiction of racetrack

The Sun's editorial in support of the application by Chesapeake Motorsports Corp. for an auto racing stadium in our district was unsettling and inaccurate ("Critical turns for auto track," Feb. 4).

The editorial stated that "no one else is interested in this brownfields site." In fact, Chesapeake Beneficial Material Corp. has indicated a strong interest in using the site for a dredge spoils recycling operation.

It is also significant to note that CSX Transportation Inc. has conveyed to County Executive Janet S. Owens and Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari its opposition to the development of the racetrack.

The railroad referred to its incompatibility with proposed residential development. This is an important development; the CSX land would have provided contiguous parking for the racetrack.

While the racetrack project may provide additional tax revenues for our county, the additional revenue would be far outweighed by the serious, adverse impact of this development on already congested roads in our district.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno

Del. Joan Cadden

Del. John R. Leopold

Del. Mary Rosso, Annapolis

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