U.S. appeals court hasn't ruled on case of Kevin Wiggins...


February 18, 2002

U.S. appeals court hasn't ruled on case of Kevin Wiggins

As a sitting judge, I am uncomfortable writing to The Sun. However, the editorial "Taking a pass on basic discretion" (Feb. 10) contained two inaccuracies I believe I should correct.

First, the conviction of Kevin Wiggins has not been overturned by a federal Court of Appeals judge; I am the judge who found that the evidence against Mr. Wiggins was not constitutionally sufficient to support his conviction for murder. I made that ruling as a single district court judge, and it is now on appeal.

Although I believe my decision was correct, I recognize it may be reversed.

Second, I did not, as the editorial suggests, question the morality of the policy of the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office regarding the prosecution of capital cases.

I made the remark quoted in the editorial when I perceived, perhaps mistakenly, that during a hearing before me in the Wiggins case, an attorney displayed an attitude not commensurate with the seriousness of the issues or the solemnity of the proceedings.

Capital prosecutions raise many complex issues, from the moral and legal to the economic and practical. It is understandable that these issues prompt heated debate, because they are difficult and profound. Reasonable men and women can certainly disagree about their resolution.

I hope, however, that all fair-minded people agree that the debate about the death penalty (as well as other issues relating to the administration of justice) should be conducted intelligently, self-critically and on the basis of full and accurate information.

J. Frederick Motz


The writer is a U.S. District Court judge.

Pursuing the death penalty reduces the murder rate

Baltimore County has one of the highest death penalty prosecution rates in the country ("Taking a pass on basic discretion," editorial, Feb. 10). It also has about one-tenth the number of murders of Baltimore City, which rarely pursues the death penalty for murderers.

There seems to be a connection between aggressive prosecution of murder cases and a lower murder rate.

Jurisdictions less aggressive in prosecuting murder cases seem to pay for this position with much higher murder rates.

Walter R. Hayes Jr.


Baltimore County has the most inmates on death row because it still values human life ("Balto. County has most inmates on death row," Feb. 8). And its officials vigorously investigate and prosecute those who do not.

If only one person does not commit murder in Baltimore County because of this policy, the effort is worthwhile.

Tom Burke


CIA misdeeds fit profile of terrorist operations

How interesting that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, testifies before Congress about a worldwide terrorist network ("Tenet says al-Qaida still serious threat," Feb. 7). He's in a good position to do so, since he heads the largest terrorist organization in the world: the Central Intelligence Agency.

How many thousands of people have been killed in the last 50 years by CIA operations such as Operation Mongoose (in Cuba), the overthrow of governments in Guatemala, Iran, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Congo, Indonesia and Haiti, and assassination plots?

Perhaps CIA agents don't set off suicide bombs or fly airplanes into buildings, but they have been guilty of a multitude of murders, along with drug-running and total disregard for human rights, human welfare and democracy.

How about a report on the CIA's crimes against humanity?

The Rev. John Oliver


Allfirst trader's religion is not germane to news

I took particular umbrage with The Sun's article "Allegations stun acquaintances and neighbors" (Feb. 7). In the very first sentence, it suggests that alleged defrauder John Rusnak's most memorable qualities "were as a husband, a father and a Catholic."

Mr. Rusnak's religious affiliation is not germane to anything that has to do with his current circumstance.

Furthermore, I would be willing to wager my monthly mortgage payment that had Mr. Rusnak been Jewish, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Hindu or anything else, his religious denomination would not have been prominently noted.

I hope in the future The Sun acts more responsibly when indicating religious affiliation in its news articles.

Louis R. Fritz


Pension board's losses also deserve scrutiny

Amid the firestorm of media coverage regarding the $750 million loss at Allfirst Financial Inc., allegedly at the hands of "rogue trader" John Rusnak, I wanted to comment on the article "State's pension board dismisses Chapman's firm" (Feb. 9).

In that report, we learn that the state's pension account has lost "about $4 billion over the past 18 months," including $30.1 million in Enron Corp. stock and bonds and "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in the Nathan A. Chapman Jr. $175 million investment follies.

Doesn't that make former state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon a "rogue investor" deserving of the same scrutiny as Allfirst?

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