Readers Respond

December 03, 2009

The wrongly convicted deserve their day in court

A wrongly convicted person is entitled to a day in court to present newly discovered evidence. ("Fight brewing over 'innocence' law," Nov. 29.)

Under the legislation that we successfully sponsored, two conditions must be met before a hearing is held on a writ of innocence. The evidence could not have been discovered within one year of sentencing, and it must create a substantial or significant possibility that the verdict may have been different. This legal standard for reviewing such requests was first adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1989.

We have agreed to make the following changes in the law: A hearing can be sought only for felony convictions, and notice and an opportunity to be heard must be provided to both the state and the victims.

A confession of guilt by a third party might not take place until long after the conviction of an innocent person. Prior to now, if exculpatory evidence became available more than a year after the sentencing of a wrongly convicted individual, two people could serve time for the same offense.

Our legislation reduces the likelihood of that miscarriage of justice without overburdening our court system.

Sen. Delores G. Kelley and Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, AnnapolisThe writers are Democrats representing Baltimore County and City, respectively.

Heritage credits create jobs

We applaud your Nov. 30 editorial, "Credits that work," about the need to extend the Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit program before it expires next year. Gov. Martin O'Malley is committed to authorizing an improved version of the program in the 2010 legislative session.

This stimulus has been a proven smart growth tool throughout the state, from Cumberland to Frederick to Montgomery County to Baltimore City to Cambridge. Projects propelled by this program have been catalysts for the revitalization of the communities around them.

This program also helps put Marylanders to work. In new construction, labor and material costs split roughly half and half. But in rehabilitation projects like those advanced by the historic tax credit, 70 percent or more of costs go toward labor.

The program is also very green. The striking Miller's Court redevelopment in Charles Village kept 7,000 tons of solid waste out of local landfills through the renewal of that former warehouse into apartments and offices, rather than demolishing the structure and building anew. The renovation saved the energy equivalent of 128 billion BTUs - or 126 semi-tanker trucks of gasoline. We need to make the best use of existing buildings and infrastructure and support sustainable communities, rather than bulldozing rural areas.

The program will prove even more valuable in a challenging market for commercial real estate. We look forward to working with the General Assembly and other stakeholders on its continuation.

Richard Eberhart Hall, BaltimoreThe writer is Maryland's secretary of planning.

Parents need to stop teen drunk driving

Once again, our community mourns the senseless death of a young person due to the mixture of alcohol and driving ("Ex-River Hill player charged in fatal DUI," Nov. 30). Even though we continually try to educate and warn teens about the dangers of drinking and driving, it still remains the leading cause of death for the 15-to-25-year-olds. Every weekend there are parties held where underage drinking occurs and teens begin to play Russian roulette with their lives.

Being teenagers, most of them feel invincible and think these tragedies only happen to someone else. I'm sure that Steven Dankos from River Hill High School never thought he would lose his life in an alcohol-related car crash, and I am sure he was told over and over never to get into a vehicle driven by an intoxicated driver. But for some reason he did, and he paid the ultimate price. What more can we do to convince our youth that mixing alcohol and driving is a deadly combination? The ultimate responsibility lies with their parents. While every parent wants their child to be successful, happy and popular, we have to ask: at what price?

Parents know about the underage drinking parties that go on every weekend, but how many try to stop them? Not enough. We can try to scare our teens from drinking and driving, but until parents say enough is enough, we will continue to witness these preventable tragedies.

Mike Gimbel, TimoniumThe writer is the former Baltimore County director of substance abuse and a founder of Students Against Drunk Driving of Maryland.

McChrystal should be fired

If President Barack Obama meets his goals in Afghanistan with the surge in troops like George W. Bush did in Iraq, he will quell the critics about taking his time to make the troop decision. However, if the plan fails, his troop surge decision will be the political death blow to his presidency.

But now President Obama should fire Gen. Stanley McChrystal for publicly announcing his troop needs back last summer without approval from his boss. Clearly, General McChrystal was disrespectful, if not insubordinate, to his boss, President Obama. Mr. Obama needs to send this message to the military commanders, reminding them who they serve, and showing the American public he, and not a military general, is the commander in chief.

Ron Wirsing, Havre de Grace

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