Death penalty threatens lives of the innocent Maryland...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 10, 2002

Death penalty threatens lives of the innocent

Maryland can learn a great deal from U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff's decision to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional ("Judge rules federal death penalty unconstitutional," July 2).

Many of the reasons that Judge Rakoff cited in his decision to halt federal executions apply directly to Maryland's death row.

Judge Rakoff found that, with DNA testing, "the most clear and compelling evidence of innocent people being sentenced to death chiefly emerged."

The same is true in Maryland, where Kirk Bloodsworth faced the state's execution chamber only to be exonerated when DNA evidence proved his innocence.

Judge Rakoff also pointed out that not every death penalty case has DNA evidence available and that innocent people continue to be at risk. In Maryland, we need only to look at the case of Eugene Colvin-el, who was taken off death row by Gov. Parris N. Glendening because of a lack of evidence against him. Or at the case of current death row inmate Kenneth Collins, whose conviction rests on the testimony of a single prosecution witness -- a witness who recently recanted his testimony in a taped interview.

The death penalty is a human institution with human flaws. As long as innocent people are at risk, no one should be executed.

Michael Stark

Washington

The writer is Baltimore-Washington coordinator for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Pre-emptive strike is an appalling idea

I was appalled to read that President Bush is considering a pre-emptive strike in an undeclared war ("Bush to issue `strike first' strategy," June 30). I believe only Congress has the power to declare war.

But once again the Bush administration plans to go it alone, without consulting our NATO allies. What arrogance.

Sibylle Ehrlich

Towson

Sprawl is the reason centers can't hold

Reporter Tricia Bishop seems to lack curiosity about why "`There's no more land' to build in Columbia" (June 26).

But as a Sun article pointed out a month ago, Columbia (like Reston, Va.) has only recently begun building the kind of intense mixed-use development that could have saved vast amounts of Columbia and Howard County land from sprawl ("Suburban Columbia seeks an urban core," May 26).

Until we question the building and buying of isolated cul-de-sacs and townhouses and the paving of enormous expanses with bay-destroying roads and "spin-off development," we will have to accept the fact that "the Town Center area has yet to realize its residential [and commercial] potential."

C. Greg Carroll

Reston, Va.

`Chairsteaders' create a hazard

I am a Catonsville resident and can attest to the fact that the chained curbside chairs appeared even earlier this year than usual ("These seats are taken," July 3). Perhaps the Catonsville parade committee could benefit from this Catonsville tradition by selling Personal Seat Licenses.

But, in all seriousness, staking out public property for private use should be stopped by Baltimore County as a matter of public safety. Fire and rescue crews could be impeded from reaching the houses along the street by these roped and chained barriers. Pedestrians and bike riders also face increased danger as they attempt to avoid the chairs.

If the county does not wish to enforce a total ban, it should limit the "chairsteaders" to staking out a place at the curb no earlier than the evening before the parade.

All personal property placed curbside prior to the designated time should be removed as trash.

Kathleen A. Roso

Catonsville

Obese should pay for space they use

Those air travelers carping about Southwest Airlines' decision to consider charging obese people for two seats ("Two-ticket policy is discriminatory," letters, July 1) might want to consider the following:

Southwest is a no-frills airline which can mean there is not a lot of extra space.

Obese people often have to pay more for their clothes. Why not for airline seating?

Southwest's service is top-flight and its safety record is better than that of most competitors.

And finally, if the airline was forced to install larger seats, do you really believe the prices would remain the same? Get real.

Garland L. Crosby Sr.

Baltimore

Even out the funding for Amtrak, airlines

In his column "Amtrak has outlived its usefulness" (Opinion

Commentary, July 2), Steve Chapman speaks disparagingly of the federally underfunded and poorly run national passenger railroad but overlooks the billions taxpayers put yearly into infrastructure support for the equally poorly run airline industry.

The airlines were on the ropes long before Sept. 11. If Congress had invested a portion of the $15 billion it appropriated to bail out the airlines in Amtrak, it might have been able to pick up the slack after Sept. 11 and provide the service customers wanted.

Both industries need to be overhauled. Long hauls make no sense for Amtrak and short hauls make little sense for the airline industry.

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