Letters To The Editor


April 04, 2005

City convictions are tainted by police lab work

The Sun's editorial on the issue of the gunshot residue testing regimen at the Baltimore Police Department's crime lab omits several salient facts and needlessly diminishes the significance of the systemic problems that exist ("Simply not staggering," editorial, March 28).

To imply that it is acceptable to utilize any amount of "bad science" in a criminal case is simply indefensible.

Whether one or 100 criminal convictions are tainted by the use of unreliable scientific evidence is not the appropriate question. If one individual is convicted on bad science, that is and should be totally unacceptable.

No mention was made in the editorial of the severe and ongoing contamination and quality control lapses that render past and present gunshot residue test results meaningless.

The Baltimore police crime laboratory has a documented history of uncontrolled gunshot residue contamination and a history of ineffective responses to the problem.

The contention of the Police Department and the office of the state's attorney that residue has a limited role in securing convictions is simply not an accurate portrayal of the weight juries give to "objective" science in determining guilt or innocence.

If the evidence was not persuasive, the state would not seek to admit it in criminal cases.

The utility of this evidence to the prosecution was starkly demonstrated in State of Maryland vs. Tyrone Jones.

In that case, a juror stated that she would not have voted to convict Tyrone Jones but for the gunshot residue evidence.

The Office of the Public Defender again renews its request to have independent quality assurance experts conduct an audit of the Baltimore police crime laboratory.

Unreliable scientific evidence undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system and can damage prosecutions as well as contribute to the wrongful conviction of criminal defendants.

The Office of the Public Defender will continue to litigate this issue until Baltimore's crime laboratory adopts appropriate scientific methods and all the cases of those who may have been wrongfully convicted have been reviewed.

Patrick Kent


The writer is chief of the forensics division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Renaming airport could hurt the state

I would like to register my opposition to the proposal to rename the Baltimore-Washington International Airport ("Doing justice to the airport?" March 31).

"BWI" is internationally known as being located in the Baltimore-Washington area. Without this geographical nomenclature, we would risk loss of revenue.

Thurgood Marshall deserves to be honored and immortalized locally and maybe even nationally. But not by renaming our world-renowned airport.

In addition to the probability of loss of international recognition and a decrease in revenue to our state, the process of renaming would be an unwarranted burden on state taxpayers.

Eleanor Ziemba


Who would bear cost of new BWI signage?

What purpose would it serve to change the name of Baltimore-Washington International Airport - which is known worldwide as "BWI" - to "Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport" ("Justice's family to back BWI renaming," March 28)?

Most people traveling to or from Baltimore probably have never heard of Justice Thurgood Marshall. But "BWI" has a meaning - an airport serving the metropolitan areas of Baltimore and Washington.

Who would pay the additional cost to change all the signs on the highways?

And what about all the businesses that have "BWI" in their business name? Who would pay to have all their stationery changed, along with their letterheads, envelopes, business cards and the signs on building and trucks, etc.?

Not only is the proposed new name hard to say, it serves no identity purpose.

Roy Ruhe


Honor the taxpayers by selling off name

There is a Thurgood Marshall High School in Baltimore. There is a Thurgood Marshall memorial and statue in Annapolis.

Why not do something to honor the taxpayers in Maryland and let a corporate sponsor bid on the naming rights for Baltimore-Washington International Airport?

Rick Singer


Renaming fad adds no honor

I have always been an admirer of Justice Thurgood Marshall, and I applaud any steps to keep his name and his accomplishments in the public eye ("Justice's family to back BWI renaming," March 28). However, I think the wave of renamings of public facilities that seems to be the fad in the United States is cheapening the names of those we are attempting to honor.

The practice is too similar to that of naming a football stadium or an arena for a bank.

Or to renaming Washington National Airport for Ronald Reagan, which I believe was embarrassing and misguided on a number of levels.

Don't we still have other ways to memorialize good people without cheapening their names?

John E. Sinkins


More time needed to fix juvenile justice

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