State didn't object to question on bias
The Sun's article "Race a factor in overturned conviction" (June 16) discussed my decision to submit a motion for a new trial in case of State vs. Erik Stoddard.
While the reporter was unable to obtain comment from the assistant public defender who actually handled the case, she did speak with his supervisor, Bridget Duffy Shepherd, the chief public defender for Baltimore Circuit Court.
Ms. Shepherd defended the request for a new trial by claiming, "I don't know why the state's attorney didn't want [the racial bias question] asked anyway."
I want to point out that neither I, my co-counsel or any member of the state's attorney's office objected to a voir dire question asking potential jurors whether they were biased against the white defendant because of his race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
A review of the record will show that the sole reason that the judge declined to ask that question of prospective jurors was that he had already asked a question that he believed sufficiently addressed the issue of bias.
The state's attorney's office is vigilant about ensuring compliance with ethical requirements. All other attorneys practicing in our state should strive to meet the same standards.
Julie A. Drake
The writer is chief of the felony family violence division of the Baltimore State's Attorney Office.
Testing for toxins didn't go far enough
I was furious to read about the federal report that concluded that tainted park soil in South Baltimore's Swann Park is "not likely" to cause cancer or other illnesses unless children "eat the dirt" ("Report: tainted park soil no risk, unless you eat it," June 15).
It boggles my mind that the report focused only on small soil samples provided by Honeywell International, the company responsible for paying for the cleanup.
Extensive soil testing should have been conducted not only for arsenic but also for other harmful pesticides and chemicals. The air should have been sampled and humans tested for various poisons.
The suggestion by a researcher that the agency lacked resources to take more samples is no excuse when human lives are at stake.
As a psychotherapist who worked for more than 20 years on Hanover Street, I have seen patients with many unusual somatic and emotional complaints and heard reports of many cancer deaths in the neighborhood.
One investigator, when asked whether he would worry about high arsenic concentrations in his yard, said, "No."
But would he grow a vegetable garden there? Or sit outside on a hot summer night there? Or let his kids play in the park?
Dixon does nothing to dispel the gloom
What do I think of Mayor Sheila Dixon now ("Sheila Dixon dispels gloom with surprising mayoral debut," Opinion
Commentary, June 17)?
Let's see: The murder count in Baltimore appears to be headed for more than 300 for the year. Two crime plans have gone down the drain in six months. The city school board apparently cannot put together a budget with any reality or accuracy. City school test scores continue to lag far behind those in neighboring counties. And the Fire Department cannot protect its own recruits in training.
Finally, there are the city streets such as Cross Country Boulevard that look like the surface of the moon.
So, what do I think of Ms. Dixon now?
I think I'm glad I live in Baltimore County, and that if she is retained as mayor, I know I'll be joined by many other refugees from the city.
Try firing leaders at a different level
If firing the leadership is a panacea for winning in baseball ("Wholesale changes for O's," June 19), why don't we try it on the national level?
Missile shield plan wastes tax dollars
The deputy director of public affairs for the Missile Defense Agency would be expected to put the best spin possible on the missile defense program ("Missile shield system well worth the price," letters, June 14).
But for those not familiar with this colossal waste of taxpayer money, it should be pointed out that the program has failed test after test, sometimes failing to hit rockets even though their trajectory was known before the test.
Unfortunately, the easily overwhelmed "missile defense shield" would, in a real attack, need to miss just one missile for us to suffer the kind of damage witnessed in the 9/11 attacks.
This program is symbolic of our defense contractor corporate welfare state, where taxpayer dollars prop up multibillion-dollar corporations while our schools crumble and tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance.
We must demand better priorities in the spending of our tax dollars.
Attack on rule of law involves many allies
Thank you for "Attack on America" (editorial, June 13).
The Sun has printed other accounts of the illegal, arbitrary and, until now, almost unchecked imprisonment and torture committed by the Bush administration. But I don't think I've seen in The Sun anything quite this blunt and succinct - especially as the paper's own opinion.
Perhaps the best part was the utterly appropriate use of the word "kidnapped" to describe the Bush administration's actions against people it calls "enemy combatants."
But Mr. Bush does not deserve all the blame.
Blame has to be shared by the Congress and courts, which have allowed him to get away with this for so long, and ultimately by the American people, who re-elected President Bush after seeing him in action for four years.
Choosing to gamble can be a pleasure
The writer of the letter "Instead of slots, try direct approach" (June 17) criticizes "people who believe gambling is a victimless evil."
I disagree with them, too, but for an entirely different reason: I believe that gambling is not inherently evil at all.
Like everything else on this planet, gambling has the potential for abuse. But it can be practiced in a way that is not abusive or "evil" in any respect.
Last weekend, my sister and my dad went to Atlantic City to celebrate Father's Day.
They spent time together as they shared in an activity they both enjoy and can afford. Such visits contribute to their happiness, and do not detract from anyone else's.
In this case, gambling is plainly a good, not an evil.
By all means, we should take steps to minimize gambling abuse and help those who are prone to it. But we should not let such behavior define an activity millions of people are able to enjoy responsibly.
In a free society, this is the ethical basis on which we should analyze and decriminalize a morally neutral activity such as gambling.