Attorney finds no general problem in Jessamy's officeAs a...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 17, 1999

Attorney finds no general problem in Jessamy's office

As a former prosecutor who spent nearly 10 years in the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, I think The Sun's two-part story concerning the failure of some state's attorneys to provide discovery materials to defendants was misleading ("How secret evidence led to life sentence," July 11 and "Solid criminal cases slip away," July 12).

While some isolated problems may exist, even as an active defense attorney I see no systematic failures or willful effort to deprive defendants of evidence.

I would estimate that under the three state's attorneys whom I served -- William Swisher, Kurt Schmoke and Stuart Simms -- several cases a year were lost as a result of discovery disputes or mistakes.

With thousands of cases and tens of thousands of pages of police reports, notes, witness statements and other documents generated by these cases each year, some lapses will occur.

I am sure every jurisdiction in the state has similar cases.

The Sun's articles also ignored the fact that legal disputes over whether materials are subject to discovery are common.

However, the problems that do exist result from several factors. The Circuit Court eliminated a general arraignment court several years ago. That court, staffed by prosecutors and public defenders, more efficiently handled preliminary proceedings such as such as discovery requests and disclosures.

Also, the State's Attorney's Office chronically lacks funding for support staff, such as law clerks and paralegals who would assist overburdened prosecutors with discovery issues.

Such support is commonplace in other government legal offices and, of course, the private sector. Many prosecutors work without adequate supplies, computers, secretaries and office and interview space.

If the public has suffered, it is because funding for city courts has become a political football.

The Sun's articles seemed designed more to impress some journalism awards committee than to expose a real problem.

Glenn L. Klavans

Glen Burnie

Sun overlooks good news from the prosecutor's office

We are division chiefs in the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office. We and our staff members work hard to serve the citizens of Baltimore. We are dismayed that The Sun chooses not to report our office's successes.

In the past, The Sun had a court reporter whose job it was to report daily on courtroom proceedings. Now the paper has chosen not to cover current cases and failed to cover successful prosecutions of murder, rape and robbery cases.

The State's Attorney's Office charged 8,600 defendants with felonies in 1998 alone. That figure does not include more than 100,000 cases charged in District Court or in Juvenile Court. Our success rate was 88 percent.

Why doesn't The Sun report that?

Since Patricia C. Jessamy has become Baltimore's state's attorney, she has reorganized the office to better serve the public.

She has set up a program to prosecute violent criminals in shooting cases, obtained funds for victim assistance programs and begun to bring this office out of the dark ages by seeking funds for computer technology and systems. She has established a community liaison program under the District Court to help victims and witnesses in District Court.

Why doesn't The Sun report that?

We are all proud to work for Ms. Jessamy. She is a professional prosecutor whose ethics are above reproach. She is dedicated both to this office and to the citizens of Baltimore.

Why doesn't The Sun report that?

Mark Cohen

Baltimore

Mr. Cohen is division chief of the State's Attorney's Office's Homicide Unit. The letter was also signed by 11 other division chiefs.

Why would a prosecutor pursue the wrong person?

If a prosecutor has evidence that the wrong person is being tried for a crime, what is the benefit of knowingly sending that person to prison and letting the guilty person walk the already dangerous streets of our communities?

Where is the logic?

Guy Cager

Baltimore

Comfort with Artscape is part of festival's appeal

Stephanie Shapiro enjoys Artscape year after year because, like any tradition -- and after 18 years Artscape is a tradition -- it offers the comfort of familiarity "Artscape's fun feels just a bit too familiar," July 12). And that's a big part of the festival's mission.

Yes, we strive to promote the vitality of Maryland's arts community. Yes, without generous sponsors and contributors, Artscape could not happen -- period. Yes, we present the highest-quality literary, visual and performing arts.

But, even more, we work hard to make sure that everyone finds a comfort level with the festival.

It's hard for as many people as attend Artscape to agree on anything, especially about art. But one thing is clear: if you're looking for "unfettered originality" in arts festivals, Artscape wins hands down.

Nowhere in this country will you find another free, municipally presented arts festival of Artscape's caliber and size.

Claudia Bismark

Baltimore

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