Sharon Guida echoed the sentiment from North Baltimore's Charles Village, where a Johns Hopkins researcher was killed in 2010 by a man with a long arrest record, shocking the community. During his campaign, Bernstein used the young man's death to illustrate what was wrong with the current prosecution model.

"He's doing an excellent job … my hat's off to him, because I was very skeptical," Guida said.

He's also created a major investigations unit, which models itself on the longer-term work done by federal investigators. It's a lofty project that will take some time to assess.

"You can't expect that to spring up overnight," said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. "One of the challenges is to develop prosecutors who have a longer-term perspective on the cases" — a difficult thing in a busy state's attorney's office, which handles thousands of cases per year.

Page Croyder, a retired prosecutor and criminal justice blogger, said changing the office culture of "this is how we do things" will be Bernstein's biggest challenge. She raised concerns that he's starting fresh with too many things and people, rather than tapping those "with deep experience from within the system" for guidance.

But Bernstein said he's already pleased by the "buy-in" from people in the office. "You always worry that the prosecutors may be so ingrained in the way they're doing things" that they won't take well to change, he said. "People are really excited, there's a real kind of energy that wasn't here before. I think that we've built great relationships."

He plans to strengthen those in the coming year, and create new ones. He's focusing on increasing domestic violence convictions by teaching prosecutors to proceed with cases even after a witness drops out and on proving that his major investigations unit is worthwhile. And he says he doesn't have any regrets about his choice to leave the private sector.

"I feel like I'm part of a positive change, every day. How can you not like that?" he said. "Yes, there's a lot of stress associated with it, and yes it's hard sometimes. You're subject to public scrutiny and criticism, but I have a thick skin. I don't sweat that stuff."

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com



Bernstein's first year by the numbers:



$238,000 — Bernstein's salary

42,000 — The number of 2011 criminal cases filed in Baltimore through October.

14,000 — The number of circuit court cases closed through November 2011, a 17 percent increase over the number of cases closed in 2010.

1,900 — The number of times a Baltimore officer failed to appear in court in 2011, through October. That's an 11 percent drop compared with the same period in 2010, when 2,100 officers failed to appear.

377 — The number of employees in the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office (208 prosecutors, including Bernstein; and 169 staff members)

224 — The number of new personal computers purchased since Bernstein took over.

118 — The average sentence in months given out for crimes involving guns and violence, up 9 percent from the previous year, when the average was 108 months.

71 — The percentage of homicide cases that ended in conviction in 2011, up from 64 percent in 2010.

51 — The number of people who have left the office since Bernstein took over (3 deputy state's attorneys, 25 assistant state's attorneys and 23 staff members).

42 — The number of people hired since Bernstein took over (3 deputy state's attorneys, 19 assistant state's attorneys and 20 staff members).

0 — The percentage difference in the overall felony conviction rate under Bernstein in 2011 compared to Jessamy in 2010. (Bernstein and Jessamy each had a 63 percent conviction rate, though Bernstein's was trending upward in the second half of the year, his office says.)

SOURCE: Baltimore State's Attorney's Office

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