Mandatory sentence tied the judge's hands in...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Mandatory sentence tied the judge's hands in 'nanny' court 0) case

The issue in the case of Louise Woodward is not guilt or innocence and is not the authority of a judge to override a jury verdict by downshifting a finding from second-degree murder to manslaughter.

The issue is the state of Massachusetts' blind adherence to mandatory sentencing.

In Massachusetts, the mandatory penalty for a finding of second-degree murder is a life in prison sentence -- no judge, no jury discretion.

The Massachusetts judge found himself between a very difficult rock and hard place.

There was a 17-year-old girl with no criminal history, unlikely to ever find herself in the same position again and eligible to be deported looking at a mandatory sentence of life in prison. On the other hand was an international, embarrassing situation covered daily and nightly by CNN and every other major news service and carried live in Great Britain.

As it stood, the entire system of American justice -- not just one state -- was at issue around the world.

In Maryland, the "nanny" might at best have earned a footnote on the local 6 o'clock news.

In Maryland, the judge, following a jury finding of second-degree murder, might have sentenced the girl to 30 years with (hypothetically) 29 years suspended or some amount of time in between.

The Woodward case proves how badly a state legislature can confound its courts with ill-considered limitations and why mandatory sentencing is stupid in any sense.

Nancy Moran

Baltimore A few things occurred to me upon reading "Scholarships supply high-tech incentive" (June 16).

One is the thought that this program will lure minorities into high-technology fields. I am a minority at the University of Delaware.

I chose mechanical engineering because of genuine interest. If someone isn't interested in a career in technical fields, failure will come at some point down the line -- in the classroom or the workplace.

Also, deans of engineering programs fail to realize that no formal systems are in place to ease the transition for minority students entering predominantly white universities. Programs should be developed to allow students to network with all types of students, not just minorities, when they need to bounce ideas off someone.

It is quite easy to get minority students to the door. Getting them through the program is the trick.

Therefore, along with the scholarships, schools should develop programs to promote networking.

Finally, employers seeking to hire graduates of these programs need to provide summer internship experience to supplement classroom instruction and allow students to gain experience so they can hit the ground running after they finish school.

Ricardo Blackett

Baltimore

Stopping, not maintaining, works best against heroin

I totally and strongly agree with one, and only one, point raised in Samuel Battista's response to the criticism of the recent heroin maintenance program on the drawing board in our city ('Give heroin maintenance a try instead of criticism," June 16). New approaches to such an age-old problem should be applauded, encouraged, even attempted.

I do not, however, believe that stopping a flood by casting sandbags into the middle of the wave is the answer. No raging fire was ever put out by aiming torrents of water across the flame but at the base where it seems to start. So, too, with the heroin epidemic. Maintenance, another word for upkeep, will only encourage drug dealers and smugglers to come up with new and different ways of getting drugs into our cities.

The closing of this particular window of profit and crime for

dealers will only open the door to an expanding and a more intensely competitive arena for dealers, with our metropolitan areas as the battlegrounds. Shouldn't taxpayers' hard-earned dollars go toward the prevention of drugs at the shorelines and borders rather than inner cities, where half the battle seems to have already been lost?

Crafton K. Gray

Baltimore

Bandleader Zim Zemarel brought joy to fans, friends

Carl Schoettler's swinging salute to Zim Zemarel was music to my eyes ("Swinging into the millennium," May 31). As a deejay in Baltimore from 1957 to 1991, I met Zimmy early and stayed late as his band played for our daughter Kim's wedding reception.

Mr. Zemarel was and, I'm sure, still is a joy to be around. In those dismal "payola" years, he was a class act in every way. His infectious smile got him more airplay for Columbia Records than all the folded-up fifties a few other promoters attempted to pass around.

One day in the 1960s, Mr. Zemarel said he was headed for Vegas and a Columbia Records bash loaded with headliners and closed to the public. He said he could get me in if I "just happened to be in Vegas that evening."

Much to his dismay, my wife and I were scheduled to stop there during a vacation. I accepted his invite.

He turned pale as even the local Vegas deejays weren't invited.

But he came through. My wife, Bobbie, and I enjoyed the evening and the entertainment by such acts as Andy Williams and Tony Bennett.

Play one for me, Zimmy. Even in Florida, I'll be listening.

Joe Knight

Fort Myers, Fla.

East Timor dateline fails to show its occupied status

I read Frank Langfitt's article "In Timor, violence, fear continue after Suharto's fall" (May 31) and was immediately grabbed by the dateline.

It identified East Timor as part of Indonesia, when anybody with even the slightest knowledge of the area would know it's occupied territory.

What is it that causes the media to automatically think of only the Middle East when referring to occupied territory yet display complete indifference when it comes to the same thing in the Far East? As pointed out in the article, Indonesia's 1975 invasion of Christian East Timor caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people, principally Roman Catholics. This, too, was met with complete indifference by print and electronic media.

In the years since, there has been a continuing reign of terror, the effort against which was recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee. In 1996, it awarded the Peace Prize to Roman Catholic Archbishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Bien and activist Jose Ramos Horta for their fight against terrorism and to regain the independence of that nation.

Why does it seem like the entire world knows everything that's happening to the Christians in the Far East except for the American media?

elia I. Cowan

Baltimore

More stories about heroes and fewer about villains

We have every right to ask our message carriers -- our newspapers, magazines and broadcast news outlets -- why they chose to make the name of 15-year-old Kip Kinkel one of the most well-known individuals in the land.

About the same time that Kip Kinkel allegedly opened fire on fellow students in Springfield, Ore., the day after he was removed from school for carrying a weapon, Baltimoreans had an opportunity to read a report about a 9-year-old named Marvin Hayes, a student at Graceland Park/O'Donnell Heights Elementary School in Baltimore. Young Marvin did not get nearly the amount of coverage the Oregon boy received ("Brave 9-year-old delivers his sister," May 23).

If you were to ask 100 people who Kip Kinkel is, probably 99 of them would respond, "The kid charged in the shooting." If you ask the same hundred people who Marvin Hayes is, probably 99 of them would say, "Marvin who?"

For all the people who haven't a clue, Marvin is the child who saved at least one life, and possibly two, with his poise and intelligence in a crisis that would have crippled the resolve of some adults.

Marvin delivered his baby sister when his 28-year-old mother went into labor.

No one else was available to help.

Those who decide what is presented in the media should give us more Marvin Hayes stories, about youth showing the courage and grit to do the right thing and fewer stories about the mayhem wrought by the Kip Kinkels of the world.

!Avrum Samuel Shavrick

Baltimore

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