November 26, 2008

Domestic abuse leaves victims with no choice

Last week, Veronica Williams was assaulted by her husband as she left the courthouse after receiving a protective order against him, and on Thursday she died ("Woman dies after spouse's attack," Nov. 22).

Yet the man who allegedly killed his estranged wife and the mother of his three children has been hailed by the community association he once led as a man "who worked hard to bring peace and safety to our community."

Did none of his peers know that what newspaper articles have called "marital strife" was really violence by one spouse against another?

The couple's children knew - in fact they had intervened at least once during a physical altercation.

And, in fact, Ms. Williams was attempting to "resolve her interpersonal issues without violence," just as a statement from the group her husband led urged people to do.

But when "interpersonal issues" are actually intimate-partner violence, it is not the victim who can make that choice. It is the perpetrator who must.

Cleaven Williams used violence as a tool to control his wife. When she said she was leaving the relationship, he became abusive. Then he allegedly killed her.

Now there are three children without a mother and with a father who will likely no longer be nearby to raise them.

What occurred in this relationship was not "marital strife"; it was abuse.

Lauri Richman, Baltimore

The writer is community education and outreach coordinator for House of Ruth Maryland.

Tougher gun laws can save kids' lives

The recent profusion of headlines exposing the prevalence of homicide in Baltimore are a jarring wake-up call regarding our need for more effective gun-control laws (e.g. "Teen, man shot to death," Nov. 19, and "Man sentenced in gunfight death," Nov. 21).

There is, granted, more to each of these stories than the ultimate tragedies, and homicide is a reflection of deeper shortcomings in Baltimore society: poverty, poor schools and drug addiction, to name a few. However, lax gun laws are an invitation to violence, and tightening restrictions on guns would be the best immediate improvement we could make to the situation.

As a high school student in Towson, I find it upsetting that, just a few miles away, shootings are an unsurprising fact of life for my peers.

Homicide was the leading cause of childhood-injury deaths in Baltimore from 2002 to 2006. If we hope to ever allow kids of Baltimore to grow up in a nurturing environment, we need to take the first step of cracking down on the possession and abuse of guns.

Why should misinterpreted Second Amendment rights help prevent youths from realizing their potential?

Annie Bishai, Towson

Mukasey has begun Justice Dept. reform

The editorial "Needed: a steady hand" (Nov. 23) accurately observes that Eric Holder, as a former deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney, is very qualified to be our next attorney general, that professionalism must be restored in the Justice Department and that one way to do so is to repudiate partisanship, especially by retaining highly qualified U.S. attorneys like Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

But in fairness, it should be noted that Attorney General Michael Mukasey has instituted laudable efforts to restore professionalism to the department. Carl Tobias, Richmond, Va.

The writer is a professor of law at the University of Richmond.

Past time to repeal Md. death penalty

Every member of Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted for the finding that Maryland's death penalty is costly and that the long process causes additional pain to family members of murder victims ("Repeal of death penalty urged," Nov. 13).

The majority of the members of the commission also found that there is a real possibility of an innocent person being executed.

It is time to put rhetoric aside in favor of reality and get rid of a policy that is not meeting its own goals and is causing so much harm.

We should put our valuable resources toward effective crime prevention programs and better victim services.

And the legislature should support the recommendation of the commission it created and repeal the death penalty now.

Peter C. Dunn, Baltimore

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