Letters To The Editor


January 04, 2008

Video bail hearings silence defendants

I was initially pleased to see The Sun's article describing Baltimore County's move to video bail hearings broadcast from jail ("Balto. Co. transmits bail hearings on video," Dec. 28). However, the article excluded important voices.

We never hear from any of the accused, for instance.

The article described a woman arrested on charges of misdemeanor possession of marijuana who could not afford $35,000 bail. From jail, she saw only a judge's face.

Did video technology improve her chances of persuading the judge to lower bail?

Could she have possibly known that Maryland law entitles most accused people to be released on the least-onerous legally available terms? That's not likely.

The article also failed to mention that people unable to post bail spend at least the next month in jail, awaiting their court date.

And it omitted the most glaring deficiency in Baltimore County bail hearings.

Unlike in the city, county judges often conduct bail hearings without an attorney representing the defendant present to advocate for that person's freedom.

Are video bail hearings conducted without a lawyer a step toward guaranteeing equal justice for the poor or toward silencing the accused in the name of efficiency?

Doug Colbert


The writer is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and a former director of the Lawyers at Bail Project.

Just no substitute for being in court

The Sun's article "Balto. Co. transmits bail hearings on video" (Dec. 28) paints a much too rosy picture of the practice of video teleconference use at bail reviews. While the system may be "state-of-the-art," there is no substitute for a defendant's physical presence in the courtroom.

Through my work as a clinical law student, I have observed video teleconference bail review hearings in Baltimore and in Anne Arundel County, and I find that the technology can prove confusing and cumbersome for defendants.

One defendant I witnessed was unable to hear his interpreter, while another didn't appear to have been told about, or even noticed, the video equipment and was uncertain how to speak to the judge.

If a defendant is one of the few fortunate enough to have a lawyer present at the bail hearing stage, video teleconferencing also presents challenges for advocacy.

If the attorney is in the courtroom while the client remains at the detention center, the defendant and defense counsel are prevented from having confidential interaction with each other because all communication is broadcast for the entire courtroom to hear.

Anne M. Deady


The writer is a student at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Put Schaefer statue by abandoned road

After reading Jean Marbella's column about reclaiming the Franklin-Mulberry "Highway to Nowhere," I'd like to suggest it would be the perfect spot for the statue of William Donald Schaefer some people are trying to find a place for ("He has a plan for the Road to Nowhere," Dec. 28).

That highway wouldn't exist if it weren't for that mayor's arrogant bullheadedness in pushing through construction of the road to try to create a "no alternative" situation for the planned extension of Interstate 70 through Leakin Park.

Bill Durkin


The writer is a former president of the Movement Against Destruction, an umbrella group of organizations that opposed extending expressways.

Why should citizens pay for immigrants?

A couple of immigration lawyers calling immigration service user fees "cowardly" has to win the Golden Hypocrisy Award for 2008 ("User fees distort immigration system," letters, Jan. 2).

They can't imagine why a group causing an expense to government should have to pay for that expense.

Instead, they suggest that we just spread the costs of the immigration system out among us taxpayers "more evenly and more affordably."

Gee, that sounds familiar - it's called "socialism."

Google "USSR" for a quick primer on its success.

R. A. Hausmann


State board protects schools from politics

The Sun's editorial "2007 alphabetized" (Dec. 30) devotes the letter G to "Grasmick" and observes: "Just what Maryland needs: a state school superintendent and a governor who can't stand each other. No one thinks this is about the children."

This issue is about children and protecting them from the winds of partisan politics.

In 1915, Abraham Flexner was brought here from New York to study a problem-ridden Maryland school system.

He found Maryland schools "infested with the vicissitudes of partisan politics."

The 1916 General Assembly took the appointment of the state superintendent from the governor and vested it in the Maryland State Board of Education.

Any governor may share his vision for public schools with the state board, the state superintendent and the public.

But the state board is required by statute to "determine the elementary and secondary educational policies of the state."

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