Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 31, 2006

Police lab's integrity still open question

The accreditation of the Baltimore Police Department crime laboratory by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors cannot be relied upon to usher in a new era of scientific competence and integrity ("City police crime lab earns international standing," Dec. 20).

Unfortunately, the most prominent and disturbing crime lab scandals over the last five years have all occurred at labs accredited by ASCLAD. None of these problems was discovered or revealed by ASCLAD and none of the labs has lost accreditation.

Indeed, just a few days after the accreditation announcement, the lab director for an ASCLAD-accredited lab in North Carolina acknowledged violating reporting guidelines by concealing exculpatory DNA test results from the defense in the Duke lacrosse case in an effort to assist the prosecutor and admitted he had contaminated some samples with his own DNA ("Omission of DNA data rocks Duke case," Dec. 24).

Once again, ASCLAD was nowhere to be found.

ASCLAD is a voluntary organization of crime lab directors. It has no regulatory powers, no public reporting requirements and no accountability to the criminal justice system, the government or the public.

In a 1992 report, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the ASCLAD model of voluntary accreditation was doomed to fail as a mechanism for ensuring standards for crime lab performance.

The sad fact remains that even today a lab performing a cholesterol test is subject to greater federal and state regulatory oversight than a crime lab generating evidence that can lead to the death penalty.

To the extent that ASCLAD accreditation is offered as a substitute for independent, external review of crime labs, it is probably worse than nothing.

The public should demand tougher standards and meaningful oversight of such a critical public safety function.

Nancy Forster

Michele NethercottBaltimore

The writers are, respectively, the public defender for Maryland and the chief attorney for the Innocence Project at the Office of the Public Defender.

Jessamy didn't earn her huge pay raise

Upon reading of Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's salary raise ("Jessamy to be city's highest paid," Dec. 21), I wanted to scream. I find it absolutely despicable that she should receive such a large salary increase while our children's teachers, our police officers and our firefighters cannot get a decent pay raise.

And what has Mrs. Jessamy done to deserve this raise?

Crime in Baltimore is still at high levels, and there does not appear to be much relief in sight ("City passes '05 homicide total," Dec. 26).

The money for this raise could have gone to a much more worthy cause, such as Health Care for the Homeless or to the Enoch Pratt Free Library or to the city's animal shelter.

I think that someone has his or her priorities misplaced.

Theresa Stinson

Baltimore

Giving Gerald Ford the credit he's due

The Sun's remembrance of President Gerald R. Ford Jr. was very well-written and gave the proper credit to a man who did his very best to serve his country at a time of great turmoil ("Antidote in the White House," editorial, Dec. 28).

As The Sun correctly pointed out, Mr. Ford's decision to pardon President Nixon was not only instrumental in his loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976 but influenced who held the presidency for years after that.

The Sun is also correct that his pardon of Mr. Nixon avoided "the charade of a trial" which might have resulted from Mr. Nixon's prosecution.

Michael Connell

Baltimore

Who will redeem today's presidency?

President Ford's major accomplishment was to re-establish decency in the U.S. government ("Gerald Ford is dead at 93," Dec. 27).

We need someone like him today.

Sam Legg

Cockeysville

Dialogue a key step on the path to peace

Congratulations for publishing the letters of Salameh Nematt and Akiva Eldar ("Reaching across the divide," Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 26). The world needs more men like these Arab and Israeli journalists to help guide us toward peace.

We will all be the beneficiaries if they continue their efforts to bring the extremists on both sides toward the center.

They have my best wishes in their frustrating but absolutely critical efforts.

Frank Smor

Baltimore

Thank you for publishing the exchange of letters between two of the Middle East's most respected journalists: Salameh Nematt, an Arab, and Akiva Eldar, an Israeli.

Indeed, there is a ray of hope for peace, if such dialogue continue.

Mr. Eldar notes that we must focus on searching for a cure for the severe malady of fanaticism and violence.

I could not agree more.

Larry Guess

Havre de Grace

Shame executives into sharing wealth

It is disingenuous for Thomas Sowell to suggest that people simply don't understand why many corporate executives have enormous compensation packages, and that therefore we should be quiet, lest the bad politicians legislate against the wealthy ("Why let politicians say how much you can earn?" Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 28).

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