Analysis of State's Attorney debate faulted

August 13, 2010

In the purported analysis of the prosecutorial debate ("Prosecutor and challenger go head to head," Aug. 13), Tricia Bishop and Justin Fenton say of the lower than average conviction rate in Baltimore City that "The figures may say more about Baltimore jurors than prosecutors," and go on to cite a 2008 study funded by the Abell Foundation.

That study was severely flawed, offering "conclusions" that were not supported by the data. The data simply compared conviction rates in different jurisdictions. The "conclusions" most improperly assigned reasons for the difference, for which there was no evidentiary basis. They appeared to be based solely on the investigator's personal biases. The study was severely and rightly criticized at the time and should not now be used to create an appearance of impartial analysis.

From the evidence we have, it is entirely possible that weak prosecutions in Baltimore City have contributed significantly to the low conviction rate, as Gregg Bernstein has suggested. It is not possible either to blame them entirely or to rule them out.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

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