Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

No system better than the one that...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No system better than the one that tried O.J.

A few comments on the O.J. Simpson verdict come to mind as it seems everyone has an opinion, most of which are based on emotion, lack of understanding of our criminal justice system, or worse.

First, I believe the jury came to the right verdict, but probably for the wrong reason. Given the obvious racial polarization this trial seems to reflect it is a good bet the jury, mostly black, used race as a major factor in its decision to acquit. Yet the verdict was the right one as the prosecution's case was so riddled with problems that the defense could create enough reasonable doubt to drive a truck through.

Second, this case proves that if a defendant has money, he is more likely to get a fair trial.

Finally, what bothers me about the reaction of a number of people, including many talk show hosts and their callers, is the cry that our justice system is broken and must be "reformed." The question I have for these people is simply, how? Do you want to remove reasonable doubt as the state's burden of proof? And replace it with what? The easier civil case burden of proof? I have no doubt you'd have more people in jail, many of them for crimes they didn't commit. Or do you want to allow evidence introduced that was illegally gathered? Then we can have a system like they had in the Soviet Union where the defense lawyer agreed with the prosecutor that the defendant was indeed guilty and deserving of punishment but pleaded that the judge have mercy. Can't argue with their conviction rate!

Or maybe we can replace our jury system? A simple majority perhaps? I know, let's do away with the jury altogether, as all this scientific evidence only confuses the average person. What shall we replace it with? Trial by combat? Maybe we can allow torture; many countries do. Or how about the old Puritan custom of throwing the defendant in a pond? If he drowns, he obviously was not possessed by the devil and was telling the truth. If he floats, he is possessed by the devil and should therefore be executed.

You say, "Rammes, now you are getting silly." And you'd be right. But the point is when some of these pundits, or your friends, say that we need to reform our system of justice, find out exactly how they propose to do so. Then ask yourself if you'd like to be tried by their new system if, God forbid, you were accused of a crime you did not commit.

The founding fathers did a darned good job of putting this system together. If we change it, we'd better make sure what we replace it with is an improvement.

Frank H. Rammes

Finksburg

Tolerance dilutes KKK's ugly message

Due to the recent Ku Klux Klan activity in our town, and this group's historical, unremitting hatred for blacks, Jews and Catholics, once again it becomes necessary to defend the good people of Manchester.

It is appropriate and timely, because of the pope's visit to Baltimore, to make the public aware of the activity of men and women of good will.

For years, the church of St. Bartholomew has been inadequate to serve the needs of its ever-increasing number of parishioners. The Trinity United Church of Christ and Immanuel Lutheran Church since 1988 have offered their facilities to St. Bartholomew on those times when crowds were especially heavy: Christmas, Easter and First Communion.

A small thing? Not at all. It was an ecumenical hand extended in spiritual friendship.

My wife is an elder in our Trinity Church. I am an inactive elder. I mention this because of the many mean, sniping comments published in the press about the pope's visit and its cost to the taxpayers.

These nasty comments obviously come from people who feel they alone have access to the way, the truth and the light; their belief alone represents the only direct highway to heaven and everyone else is on a detour, at best.

Let us remember Maryland's wonderful history of tolerance and freedom.

Elmer C. Lippy Jr.

Manchester

The writer is mayor of Manchester.

What if Alan Keyes headed D.C. march?

I was struck by the similarity of your coverage of the Million Man March with that of the pope's recent visit to Baltimore. I applaud The Sun's thorough coverage of both events.

As a white Catholic, I read with interest accounts of the spiritual mood and peaceful fraternity experienced by the march participants. Again, I was impressed by the similar feelings expressed by participants in the Papal Mass at Camden Yards. Your enlightening coverage of both events points out what may be two of the main causes of racial discord in this country: the erosion of spirituality and the power of the media.

It was refreshing to read about all the good things about the march in addition to the negative commentary about Louis Farrakhan and Benjamin Chavis. Just as many Catholics disagree with the pope's views on abortion and gender issues, I imagine that many of the march participants disagree with Mr. Farrakhan's disturbing rhetoric of separatism and racial hatred. While I enjoyed The Sun's fine coverage of the pope and the march, I wish there would be equal coverage of conservative black leaders. The media influences public opinion by what it covers, not just by the quality of the journalism. Would the march have received such lavish coverage had it been organized by another black leader who espouses family values and personal repsonsibility, but a color-blind society, such as Alan Keyes?

Elise Koehler

Westminster

How it feels to watch the young die of old age

My job title on paper does not appear on my name tag. What clientele would want to be seen talking to the HIV coordinator?

I am the health professional you want most not to need. Truth be told, safe sex and not sharing needles will pretty much ensure you don't. But my charges grow in number anyway: 150 or so names in my fancy computer program when I started this job five years ago have grown to more than 900. It's not easy to "just say no" in our complicated world. Check with the waiting room occupants in a cardiologist's office who could not find the word for various combinations of overeating, underactivity, smoking and alcohol abuse.

One of our clinic doctors brought a more subtle characteristic of our patients to my consciousness one day. After seeing a young veteran he remarked, "That guy is like an old man: no contemporaries. They have all died." It goes deeper than that. As our patients enter later stages of HIV, many begin to age in fast forward. Bones show. Hair gets fine and thins out. Eyes bulge from a gaunt face. Forgetfulness evolves into confusion and loss bodily functions. People I have gotten to know well over months and years I don't recognize after a short hiatus.

Without having the pleasures of a full life span, they get the problems more likely to come at the end of one. Young people discuss diarrhea cures and the best tasting high calorie drinks. Requests for diapers and incontinence pads, walkers and wheelchairs are common. Talk includes advance directives and hospice. Thirty-somethings move back home so parents can care of them and watch over their demise.

They pass so quickly through the life of our clinic that we come to think of short as long. It seems like one veteran, whose benchmark of waning life -- the T4 count -- was virtually at zero when I first came, has been with us forever. I have spoken of him as the grand old man of the clinic, one who has survived generations of other clientele. I describe his five years at "zero" to most every new arrival to impart a sense of hope. One day it occurred to me that I tell his story for my sake. He is the raft to which I cling as more and more enter our sea of statistics, stay long enough to become individuals we cherish and then drop away from us.

I arrived at work one day three weeks ago to find out that our grand old man had died.

) He turned 33 last spring.

Kathryn J. Henderson

Westminster

The writer is a registered nurse.

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