Prosecuting someone who may be innocent sends the worst...


September 10, 2001

Prosecuting someone who may be innocent sends the worst signal

The Sun's editorial "Prosecutors must show zero tolerance" (Aug. 12) states that because my office dropped hate crime charges against an individual charged with the vandalism of the Aris T. Allen statue we failed not only in the case but to send a message to the public.

I believe an even worse message would be sent by prosecuting an individual when we did not have the evidence to prove a case, simply because of public pressure.

The editorial also suggests we failed to ensure the attendance of two key witnesses, but fails to mention that the reason they didn't show up is that they demanded to be paid in advance for their testimony. That is not a fair and just administration of the law, and it is certainly not how my office operates.

A subsequent investigation of the crime has all but exonerated the man originally charged. But according to The Sun's editorial, it would have been better to prosecute and convict to send a message.

I suggest that pursuing the conviction of an individual where there was serious doubt as to his guilt would have been the most egregious act committed.

I do agree that these acts are disgusting. In fact, my office recently announced a new prosecution effort to assist with the prosecution of hate crimes.

The Hate Crime Prosecution Team consists of a seasoned prosecutor, victim advocate and investigator. Each is as committed as I am to prosecuting these cases.

Frank R. Weathersbee


The writer is the state's attorney for Anne Arundel County.

Rasin's resignation is loss for the District Court

Martha F. Rasin excelled as chief judge of the District Court of Maryland ("Chief judge to quit post," Aug. 23). She had a very hard act to follow, but instead of just trying to fill former Chief Judge Robert Sweeney's shoes, she chose to create a new path and lead the court into the 21st century.

Under her leadership, the court made numerous technological advances, created multilingual forms and became more user-friendly. The district court is the "people's court," and she worked tirelessly to make it easier to navigate. She also made great strides in alternative dispute resolution and domestic violence reform.

She has a mind of her own. When confronted with a plan to create "speedier justice," she wanted time to study the plan to make sure it was viable and that people's rights wouldn't be compromised. Some called that obstructionist. I call that doing her job. Recent reports have shown that her concerns were justified.

Our loss is Anne Arundel County's gain. She will bring her deep passion for justice to their bench each and every day.

Barbara Baer Waxman


The writer is a judge on the District Court of Maryland.

Social Security surplus shouldn't fund federal budget

The surplus has almost disappeared and the Social Security reserves may soon be used to pay for government expenses. This in spite of a 1999 gentleman's agreement not to raid that surplus.

President Johnson decreed that the Social Security tax receipts be included in the general fund. Now the official differences in the destination of income and payroll taxes has disappeared.

Reducing income tax rates and not payroll tax rates is a mockery of justice. The compassionate reaction to the lost surplus should be to raise income tax rates or reduce the budget.

The president's solution is to divert payroll taxes, some of which were collected from people who did not participate in reduced income tax rates, then use this money to subsidize the people who received income tax rate reductions.

This is tantamount to stealing money from the poor to give to the rich.

David Gillan


Former President Bush said "Read my lips; no new taxes."

President George W. Bush said that he would not touch Social Security.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Angela Beltram

Ellicott City

Africans share blame for the slave trade

According to the article "S. African, EU officials try to save racism talks" (Sept. 5), the United Nations racism conference featured "African demands that former slave states make a formal apology."

I feel I am missing something. Africans are talking about millions of people shipped in chains to the Americas. Are they forgetting that Africans, at that time, captured and sold their own people?

Slavery, at any time of any people, was and is wrong. However, it seems a little convenient for Africans to make demands when they were part of the problem.

Are they making a formal apology and contributing money toward reparations?

Kathy Riley


Gun law study is no basis for new restrictions

The Sun's article "Hopkins study backs gun controls" (Sept. 4), says the study contradicts the gun-rights position.

But what this study ignores is that states with concealed-carry laws have less crime to begin with. Both Virginia and Pennsylvania have such laws and their violent crime rate are half that of Maryland's.

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