Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 08, 2006

Safeguards needed to protect innocent

Having spent nine years in prison - two of them on death row - for a crime in Baltimore County that I did not commit, I feel compelled to respond to the news of the retirement of Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor ("Death penalty defines contest," Nov. 1).

In the years since my exoneration, Mrs. O'Connor and the state legislature have largely turned a blind eye to the many problems that lead to wrongful convictions in cases like mine, problems such as faulty eyewitness identification, ineffective assistance of counsel and a lack of safeguards against the destruction of potentially exculpatory biological evidence.

Chief among these issues is difficulty of access to post-conviction DNA testing in cases involving claims of innocence.

The fact that these basic protections in my home state are still so limited continues to frustrate and concern me as both a DNA exoneree and a private citizen.

After I was exonerated by DNA testing, I fought tirelessly to have the DNA evidence collected in the case processed through the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, hopeful that a match would not only help end my personal nightmare but also find the real killer of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton to bring a sense of closure to her family.

Rather than acting quickly and decisively to test the evidence and right the many wrongs in my case, Mrs. O'Connor and her office fought my efforts at every turn. She allowed the DNA evidence to sit in storage for 10 years, during which time Dawn's real killer remained free.

Once the evidence was finally processed, it took a mere two days to prove that another local man was the real killer.

I hope the leaders who emerge from this election will finally work to address the serious flaws in Maryland's criminal justice system so no one will ever again experience the horror of wrongful conviction.

Kirk Bloodsworth

Washington

The writer is a program officer for the Justice Project and the first death-row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence.

State parks are also neglected treasures

Karen Hosler's thoughtful editorial wake-up call on the neglect of our national parks and the attempts to privatize them ("National treasure," Nov. 4) could just as well have been titled "State treasure" because the same shenanigans are occurring right here in Maryland with our state parklands.

How will our own treasures survive with the drastic reductions in budgets and personnel that have occurred over the past four years?

Will "Golden Arches" rise above the entrance, or will a Starbucks be located within every park?

Maryland's parks - from Swallow Falls in Western Maryland to Assateague Island on the Eastern Shore - are indeed Maryland's treasures that belong to all of us.

They should be maintained and managed through our state treasury, not by corporate interests.

Ajax Eastman

Baltimore

Where's the outrage at Morgan gunfire?

While those protesting the offensive behavior of the fraternity students at Johns Hopkins are to be applauded ("Hopkins battles d?j? vu on race," Nov. 5), I wonder: Where is the outrage about the Morgan State students shooting off firearms at a Halloween celebration, wounding one student ("Morgan student held in shooting," Nov. 4)?

Is this what constitutes student life at Morgan in 2006? If so, we've come a long way from sock hops and panty raids.

If I were a parent of a prospective student at Morgan, I would have some grave concerns about what constitutes extracurricular activities there.

While apparent racism is to be condemned, so is criminal, and possible deadly, behavior.

Perhaps the lack of interest in the Morgan story reveals a deeper societal prejudice and acceptance of deplorable behavior than the outrage over the insensitivity of Johns Hopkins students does.

Paul Douglas

Reisterstown

Democrats defied power of diversity

Perhaps it is true that the Democrats would have been in a stronger position to field an African-American candidate for Senate had African-Americans been "better prepared" to push a "black" candidate when Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes retired ("The test of black power in Maryland," Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 5).

However, that ignores the obvious, if unintentional, racism that played itself out in the primary election.

As it was, the vast majority of Democratic Party leaders in the state (who happen to be of European descent) lined up behind Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's campaign - perceiving him as one of their own who had "paid his dues," making his victory in the primary inevitable.

They failed to see the opportunity and strength in fielding a candidate of a different background.

The statewide party then ended up with a slate that was weaker and poorer. And African-Americans were, once again, left out.

This is not to speak against Mr. Cardin. He's a fine man. By the time this letter appears, I will have voted for him (again).

But diversity in political leadership and candidate slates doesn't just happen because an excluded minority seizes the initiative.

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