Prosecutor's office is open and effective and respects the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 14, 1999

Prosecutor's office is open and effective and respects the law

As the state's attorney for Baltimore, I have been and continue to be accessible and accountable. I attend community meetings, return telephone calls and respond to media and citizen inquiries. I am an honest, hardworking public servant who represents the citizens of Baltimore in a competent and responsible fashion.

The Sun has interviewed me numerous times. I am the only individual in city government who has opened up her office and life to a Sun reporter. This resulted in a 72 1/2 inch-long article with three photos in The Sun ("Hard road to higher office," June 1).

Two deputy state's attorneys are responsible for day-to-day operations: Sharon May and Haven Kodeck. Each is authorized to speak for this office.

Unlike many prosecutors, attorneys in the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office do not enjoy the luxury of sufficient law clerks, paralegals, investigators and support to assist in case preparation. Despite insufficient resources, they handled in excess of 8,600 felony defendants last year. Our conviction rate is 88 percent.

The Firearms Investigation Violence Enforcement Unit (FIVE), recently implemented to prosecute gun-related crime where the victim did not die, has convicted more than 150 violent criminals, 140 of whom are serving mandatory sentences.

The cases cited in Sunday and Monday's Sun ("How secret evidence led to a life sentence," July 11 and "Solid criminal cases slip away," July 12) were accumulated over a four-year period from 1995 to January, 1999, when this office handled more than 33,000 felony defendants.

We do not discount the seriousness of non-disclosure, but these cases are the exception and not the rule. Efforts are always ongoing to reduce problems within the criminal justice system.

It has always been and continues to be the policy of the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office to afford full disclosure of all evidence in criminal prosecutions to the defense according to the Rules of Evidence and Case Law.

Every assistant state's attorney knows this policy exists and must be followed. Any intentional or malicious failures will be dealt with expeditiously.

When disclosure of witnesses' names and addresses would jeopardize their safety, assistants seek protection from the courts. And, unfortunately, all evidence is not gathered at the same time. But as evidence becomes available, it is disclosed.

Patricia C. Jessamy, Baltimore

The writer is state's attorney for Baltimore City.

Sun's reports revealed no pattern of misconduct

The Sun opposed impeaching a president who misled the public and had a relationship with an intern in the White House. But it raises the specter of impeachment for the Baltimore state's attorney, despite the fact that she has committed no crime, no ethical entanglement, no deceit.

Why? Because she had the nerve to have her deputy respond to The Sun's inquiries about what it thought was front-page, breaking news.

Since appointing itself the watchdog of judicial reform, The Sun has misrepresented Ms. Jessamy's attitude toward that reform. The Sun has championed causes that have nothing to do with the city courts' backlog of cases, such as posting a judge at central booking.

It then calls the chief judges of this state and the state's attorney arrogant for not jumping to employ those solutions. The arrogance lies with The Sun.

To make matters much worse, The Sun exaggerated, even fabricated, the impact of the discovery problems it uncovered. The first case The Sun describes was from 1994. Since then, it found exactly eight cases involving six defendants in which cases were dismissed for discovery issues. Eight cases out of thousands and thousands of prosecutions.

The Sun fans community indignation, writing headlines and obtaining quotes that make it sound as though the State's Attorney's Office is regularly losing cases it should win and convicting people it should not. But it failed to document either a "pattern" of such cases or that they have had the impact The Sun suggests.

This is one of the worst pieces of journalism, one of the poorest exercises of editorial judgment, that I have ever seen.

Page Croyder, Baltimore

The writer is chief of the Central Booking Division, State's Attorney's office.

City's justice system needs help, not sanctions

We have a state's attorney's office that is swamped by a huge volume of crime. It is underfunded, understaffed, undercomputerized and, therefore, inefficient, We don't have enough judges, courtrooms, public defenders, prosecutors and support personnel.

To the rescue comes a Montgomery County legislator who wants to withhold state funds from the prosecutor's office. Thank you, Del. Peter Franchot.

For those of us who live in Baltimore City, the real help the state could provide would not be bonds for stadiums, but funds for courts, police, judges and the other parts of the Circuit Court system.

Irwin E. Weiss, Baltimore

Prosecutor's misconduct undermines judicial system

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