Dozens rally for Burns' ouster

Group joins widow of crime victim to decry comments

July 21, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

With supporters holding signs that read "No More Lies," the widow of a man who died after spending months in a beating-induced coma urged onlookers at the Baltimore Farmers' Market to join her movement to oust State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's spokeswoman.

The effort has been growing since late May, when Margaret Burns was quoted in a legal publication as questioning the severity of 28-year-old Zach Sowers' injuries.

His wife, Anna, has been dissatisfied with the response from Burns and Jessamy's office, and a rally is planned for Thursday at noon in front of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse.

"We went through something earth-shattering, and for Margaret Burns to trivialize it was unacceptable," Sowers said through a loudspeaker as a crowd of about 75 people looked on. "But this is not the only reason we're here. ... We want change, and we want to hold elected leaders accountable."

Burns, who did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, has apologized to Anna Sowers over the phone and through an e-mail, saying that the comments were misrepresented in the article. But Sowers has demanded a public apology, which so far Burns has resisted.

Zach Sowers' attacker, Trayvon Ramos, received a 40-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to robbery and attempted first-degree murder. Three co-defendants pleaded guilty to robbery and were sentenced to eight years.

In a May 28 article in a local legal magazine, Burns questioned whether the injuries Sowers suffered near his Patterson Park home were the result of a "vicious beating" and said he looked like a "sleeping baby" at the hospital.

Burns was quoted in the article as saying: "The injuries were not consistent with this horrible pummeling. ... We know he was kicked, he fell and hit his head, he fell between two cars. He probably injured something in the fall or he had a pre-existing condition."

Anna Sowers denounced the comments, saying they were completely inaccurate and have undermined her efforts as a victim's rights advocate. City Councilman James B. Kraft, who represents the district where Sowers lived, called for Burns to be fired.

Yesterday, Sowers knelt on the pavement under the Jones Falls Expressway, scrawling "Fire Burns" messages on white placards. As she weaved through the market crowd, she was approached several times by people she had never met but who knew about the controversy. They told her that she had their support.

"I heard you on the radio, and I wanted to come stand with you," Ann Kolakowski of Timonium, who was with her husband and two children, told Sowers. "This [situation] is deplorable. This is her job, and she knows better."

Some chanted "Burns must go"; Adam Meister, an Examiner blogger and Reservoir Hill activist, held a giant sign written on the back of an old campaign sign for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that read, "Jessamy: Fire Burns." Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners, who unsuccessfully challenged Jessamy in the 2006 Democratic primary, passed out fliers.

"It's a microcosm of what's going on in the city," said Tony Hates, 50, of Westgate, another supporter who did not know the Sowerses. "The state's attorney's office is an absolute mess as far as I'm concerned."

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