Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 22, 2004

Jury system is biased, abusive to city dwellers

As a lifelong resident of Baltimore, I read with interest and dismay The Sun's article about problems with the Circuit Court jury system ("No-shows stretching thin city's shrunken jury pool," April 19). While the points it makes are valid, the article describes only a part of the problem.

The current system is discriminatory and abusive to prospective jurors. As a white professional, I have never been selected for a jury after more than 30 years of summonses. I dutifully show up, but not once have I been selected. On occasion, the defendant's attorney will wink and nod, as if to say, "Right. You don't have a shot at sitting on my client's jury."

Imagine the outcry if black prospective jurors were summarily dismissed.

Furthermore, why does the court ask us to arrive at 8:15 a.m., only to sit for more than an hour and then endure a videotape describing the process of picking a jury? Can't I get credit for viewing it last year (and the years before that)?

The room in which the jury pool is held has to be one of the most uncomfortable rooms in city government. It is crowded, and the ventilation system stinks. The court does have a "quiet room," but it's not much better.

Most of the time, your number is never called, but you're forced to sit in the jury room for four hours up until lunchtime, and then another four hours after lunch. The clerks won't divulge even the barest details, i.e., how many cases are on the schedule that day, whether there are any more before lunch, etc.

At 11 a.m., if they know that there won't be more jury pools called before lunch, how about springing us early? And with so many jurors showing up daily, couldn't there be a designated parking facility close to the courthouse?

I love living in Baltimore. The advantages of the city outweigh the high tax rates and even the potential crime. But the jury system is a yearly annoyance and insult.

Lee Goodman

Baltimore

Jurors punished for being dutiful

As a city resident, I was called to jury duty every few years ("No-shows stretching thin city's shrunken jury pool," April 19). I dutifully served while others in the neighborhood and family never were summoned. I felt I was being punished for my dedication.

In addition to the problem of frequency of summonses was the issue of comfort during the long wait to see if you would be selected for a jury.

The court's jury room lacks sufficient comfortable chairs to accommodate the jury pool. I learned to rush in early in the morning to get an upholstered seat because I knew I could be in it for many hours.

Further, it seemed that my time was of no consequence to the court. A couple hundred of us were literally being held prisoner while a few people decided whether or not they would require our services.

Why can't the schedule accommodate the jurors? Defendants wanting a jury trial could be required to state the fact in advance. The court could begin the case in the morning, select the required jurors and dismiss the rest.

Since I moved to Baltimore County eight years ago, I have been called for jury duty once, served my day, was treated well and dismissed. I can handle that.

Stephen H. Knox

Baltimore

Flat tax would cut cost of enforcement

The Sun's critique of the Internal Revenue Service was timely and well-founded ("Taxed," editorial, April 15). However, in my opinion, the solution is not increasing IRS funding but simplifying a tax code made so completely by special interest groups that even IRS agents are often unable to answer taxpayers' questions correctly.

I suggest that a flat tax, which would tax all income at its source - a tax that everyone would agree is fair, and that would reduce the motivation to cheat - would be more efficient to administer and reduce the tremendous time and expense required to comply with the present code.

Benedict J. Frederick Jr.

Pasadena

Partisan questioning distorts 9/11 inquiry

Jules Witcover's column "Ashcroft offensive" (Opinion

Commentary, April 16) is a stellar example of a Bush-hater gone batty.

Mr. Witcover said: "Except for clearly partisan questions by both Democrats and Republicans during the testimonies of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and former counterterrorism expert Richard A. Clarke, the [9/11] commission has pretty much behaved in a nonpartisan manner."

That's like saying, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

Gregory L. Lewis

Baltimore

Years after massacre, guns still easy to get

Five years ago on Tuesday, two teen-agers murdered 13 and wounded 23 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Among the guns they used was a modified TEC-9 assault pistol, designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible.

Since then, Congress has done nothing to restrict the availability of these weapons. It was all too easy for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to obtain their devastating weapons then, and it remains so today.

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