No citizen is too great or too humble to serve with...


January 10, 2002

No citizen is too great or too humble to serve with peers on a jury

Mayor Martin O'Malley is to be commended for his willing service as a juror in a recent case in Baltimore City ("Mayor not excused from duty on jury," Jan. 5). It is important for our system of impartial justice that no one be considered too exalted for jury service or so humble in circumstances that they are excluded from hearing the cases of their fellow citizens.

Great efforts have been made in Maryland and elsewhere to expand the pool of eligible jurors and end exemptions for those considered "too important" for jury service. Our computer jury selection programs now routinely call in all eligible Marylanders, including senators, delegates, corporate CEOs, heads of federal and state agencies and, yes, even judges.

For all jurors, a timely request for delay in service can be accommodated if that is needed, but we do want all citizens to find the time to serve.

While jury service is a hardship for all who come, I find it is not those who hold high business or government positions who have the best claim on exemption. Often the single mom who doesn't get paid when she isn't working and who has day care problems presents a much more compelling case for an excuse.

Dennis M. Sweeney

Ellicott City

The writer is a judge in the Howard County Circuit Court.

Michael Austin's case justifies lack of faith in justice system

The Sun missed the point in its editorial on Michael Austin when it wrote: "The fact that his conviction was overturned ... restores faith in our ... criminal justice system" ("Finally, a good turn for Michael Austin," Dec. 29).

On the contrary, this case only points out how flawed the system can be, and how public officials and politicians often put the "sanctity" of the system before justice and use all the many powers of the state to defend and deny misdeeds and errors.

Tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours were needed to force the system to admit that "no reasonable juror aware of the facts ... could have convicted Austin."

But it was almost by chance that those resources were made available to Mr. Austin. Does anyone doubt there are many, many more like him behind prison walls ?

The inherent danger that an overworked system, which is often racist and almost always tilted against the poor, will sometimes convict the innocent is only one of several reasons the death penalty must be abolished - for there is no way to release the innocent when they are dead.

We call upon Gov. Parris N. Glendening to act now by declaring a moratorium on executions by the state of Maryland.

Terry Fitzgerald


The writer is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Shock therapy won't improve lives of struggling Argentines

Contrary to economist Steven H Hanke's suggestion ("Argentina errors key to its woes," Jan. 6), most people in Argentina believe that neo-liberalism is the cause of their economic problems. And Mr. Hanke fails to even mention the problems caused by Argentina's debt to the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Hanke suggests that if Argentina uses his economic shock therapy, its economic numbers will look better. The problem is that economic indicators don't really measure the health of a nation or the wellbeing of its people.

The people protesting in the street in Argentina are there because of economic issues that affect their daily lives, such as the lack of food.

Mr. Hanke suggests that they need to "modernize" their economy by weakening labor unions and reducing people's health benefits. That may make the numbers look better for economists, but it's not going to help the average citizen.

Brad Johnson


Clarence Mitchell is right to abandon the Democrats

I applaud state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV's withdrawal from the Democratic Party ("Mitchell says he plans to leave party," Dec. 28). Maryland needs a real two-party system, and Mr. Mitchell has shown common sense and the long-range vision of his family.

He could make a real difference by joining the Republican Party.

S. M. Schmidt

Middle River

Efforts to exterminate enemies can backfire

George Will fails to note that Nathan Bedford Forrest, "Rabid Knight" of the Confederacy, was not exterminated in the Civil War but lived on to create the Ku Klux Klan, which exists in many parts of the United States to this day ("Take cue from Sherman: Exterminate enemy," Opinion*Commentary, Dec. 27).

Perhaps we should take this into consideration before attempting to exterminate our current enemies.

Jerry Locklee


Vatican's policies cause the shortage of priests

Indeed, the Catholic community is "Feeling the hurt" (editorial, Jan. 2) as the priest shortage intensifies. With Catholic seminaries virtually empty, The Sun correctly notes that shutting Baltimore's Holy Redeemer and St Gerard chapels is but a precursor of tough times to come.

How sad, since things need not be this way. The shortage of priests that so distresses Catholics is a false one.

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