New ad attacks Jessamy's refusal to try one-witness cases

Bernstein, challenger for city state's attorney job, vows to end policy if elected

August 30, 2010|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

A new ad released Monday by Baltimore State's Attorney candidate Gregg Bernstein attacks the incumbent, Patricia C. Jessamy, saying she refuses to prosecute crimes when there is only one witness.

The ad features Doris Dangerfield, whose 21-year-old son Angelo was shot to death in November 2009 outside their Cherry Hill home, wiping tears from her eyes and questioning why the suspects were let go.

"The suspects they had, she's letting them go because they only had one eyewitness," Dangerfield says as she sits at a table and a graduation picture of her son is shown.

"Someone is getting away with murdering my son," she concludes.

Angelo Dangerfield, a Southwestern High School graduate, was walking his dog shortly before 6 a.m. when, a witness told police, one of two men yelled at him to keep his dog away, according to police. Dangerfield responded that the dog didn't bite. Two shots were fired, and the witness saw one of the men putting a handgun into his waistband, police said.

Ronald Edward Hall and Michael Jerome Robertson were arrested in connection with the killing, but the state's attorney's office dropped the charges in May.

Jessamy's campaign spokeswoman, Marilyn Harris-Davis, said the state's attorney wanted to see the ad before commenting. "As a general rule, the state's attorney does not prefer to proceed with single-witness cases in which there is a single, uncorroborated witness," Harris-Davis said.

Jessamy has been criticized in the past for deciding not to try cases when there is only a single witness. At a joint appearance with Bernstein at an Aug. 19 meeting of black police officers, she was asked about this apparent policy. "It doesn't do anybody any good to take cases to trial without sufficient evidence, because then they can never be tried again," Jessamy responded, referring to the double jeopardy clause that prohibits defendants from being tried twice for the same offense.

Bernstein countered at the time that a blanket policy is unacceptable, and that prosecutors must "have the courage" to try even tough cases as a way of sending a message to violent offenders. In a statement, he said he would end the policy and personally review all single-witness murder cases.

The ad states that Jessamy's "failure to convict puts violent predators back on the street," attributing as its source The Baltimore Sun of July 29, 2010. That appears to be from an opinion column by Ron Smith, who said that when he asked listeners of his WBAL radio show who was most responsible for predators remaining on the street, they said it was Jessamy.

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