Plenty of blame

Mayor's outburst: Despite her weaknesses, state's attorney is not the only official who's messing up.

January 27, 2001

MAYOR MARTIN O'Malley has left no room for confusion about how he feels about State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.

The questionable taste of his language aside, the mayor has a point: Ms. Jessamy has had a truly disastrous week.

Her prosecutors lost two high-profile murder cases and she decided not to pursue corruption charges against a police officer who was accused of falsely planting evidence. It doesn't get much worse than that.

But while Mayor O'Malley has singled out Ms. Jessamy as a target, there'splenty of blame to go around.

A case in point is the police department, which is still a mess despite Commissioner Edward T. Norris' reform efforts. Police foul-ups made successful prosecution tough in at least two of those cases. Evidence was destroyed or stolen. What's going on?

State officials are not without blame, either. Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. have ignored years of evidence of a collapsing criminal-justice system in the city. They could have intervened aggressively. They have not.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, who oversees Maryland's courts, remains in a state of denial.

His six-page "state of the judiciary" address this week made no mention of Baltimore's crisis -- or any of the pressing shortcoming of the statewide justice system.

Instead he assured the ceremonial audience that the recent presidential election demonstrated "the judicial process worked."

Go figure.

Amid the Super Bowl frenzy, perhaps it takes blunt and controversial language like Mayor O'Malley's to attract attention to an issue that will determine whether Baltimore thrives or wanes in the future.

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