Letters To The Editor


August 21, 2008

Jury study targets very real problem

According to reporter Julie Bykowicz's disturbing article on the findings of the Abell Foundation's jury study, Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy attacked the study as "divisive" and demanded that its recommendations be changed ("Jury study raises hackles in city," Aug. 18).

The Abell Foundation report found that in the three Maryland counties it studied, 45 percent of defendants in jury trials were convicted and 27 percent were acquitted.

By contrast, in Baltimore, where Ms. Jessamy has been the top prosecutor for years, only 23 percent of criminal defendants were convicted and 43 percent were acquitted; at the same time, 57 percent of the drug defendants in the city were convicted, compared with 95 percent in the three counties studied.

The report suggested that a regional jury pool might help remedy the obvious problems in the city courts.

An enraged Ms. Jessamy responded by saying, "We analyze cases not from a statistical standpoint but from a realistic standpoint."

Might I respectfully suggest that Ms. Jessamy should go outside her cocoon and notice the crime in the streets of Baltimore? That would be "realistic."

The real pity here is the harm that befalls thousands of poor minority residents from homicides, robberies and other crime in the city, in part because they seem not to have competent officers of the court to represent them.

Ms. Jessamy is probably a nice person, but Baltimoreans would be better served if she resigned instead of attacking a study that provides scientific proof of a problem we all know to be tragically true.

H. L. Goldstein, Towson

Why is Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy so outraged by the results of the Abell Foundation's study of the verdicts of Baltimore's juries?

Her office all but admits the truth of such findings when it plea bargains down the charges in horrific crimes such as the beating and subsequent death of Zachary Sowers.

The study just confirms what everyone knows - and that is truly unfortunate for all concerned.

Susan O'Connell, Baltimore

Congratulations to the Abell Foundation for sponsoring an empirical study that cites inconsistencies in city and suburban conviction rates and recommends a regional jury pool as one method to mitigate this inequity.

We live in a metropolitan area where water, sewer, electricity, culture, commerce and recreation are shared, regardless of our centuries-old artificial political boundaries or the desires of entrenched politicians who see safety in keeping our world divided.

As a city resident who is also a resident of a more globally oriented region, I believe that a jury of my peers should encompass those beyond the confines of my immediate community.

Let's hope that this study is the beginning of a trend that will help free us of the jurisdictional barriers that prevent us from becoming a truly world-class metropolitan area.

The consolidation of regional police, fire, schools and health departments would be good places to continue this effort.

Carl Hyman, Baltimore

Auto alternatives need funding boost

As Michael Dresser and Rona Kobell reported last week, drivers in Maryland and across the country are driving much less these days as a result of high gas prices ("Foot off the gas pedal," Aug. 14).

Unfortunately, as Americans look for alternatives to their cars, they are finding that many of our public transportation systems - short-changed over the years and facing their own high fuel bills - are unable to keep up with the rising demand.

Consumers looking for less car-dependent communities are also finding the supply of homes in convenient locations near good jobs, schools, shops and parks to be far below the demand.

When gas was cheap, "growing" meant building far-flung subdivisions, big-box shopping centers and other car-dependent places.

Today, it must mean keeping pace with Americans' demand for high-speed trains, light-rail lines and rapid and conventional bus transit, as well as developing more walkable and bikable communities.

The national transportation funding bill that Congress is to consider next year will provide a great opportunity for national politicians to solve our oil dependence for the long haul and create far more transportation choices than we have now.

In this bill, we need to make a dramatic shift toward supporting world-class public transportation and creating more convenient, walkable communities as our population continues to surge along with gas prices.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland and a member of the Transportation for America Campaign.

Address the blight near brewery site

Congratulations to the developers who are creating a "symbol of hope" by restoring the iconic American Brewery building at 1700 N. Gay St. ("Splendor restored," Aug. 18).

After 35 years of vacancy, tax breaks have finally made it possible to save one of East Baltimore's long-neglected architectural treasures.

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