Judge can write up a storm

John Allen Muhammad failed to persuade Maryland's second-highest court to overturn his six murder convictions this week, but the sniper did inspire it to issue one colorful legal opinion.

"For 22 days in October of 2002, Montgomery County, Maryland, was gripped by a paroxysm of fear, a fear as paralyzing as that which froze the London district of Whitechapel in 1888," it began. "In Whitechapel, however, the terror came only at night. In Montgomery County, it struck at any hour of the day or night. In Whitechapel, all of the victims were prostitutes. In Montgomery County, every man, woman and child was a likely target. The body count in Whitechapel was five; in Montgomery County the death toll reached six. The name of the Whitechapel terrorist has never been discovered. In Montgomery County, their names are John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo."


It went on from there, not with the usual, dry recitation of facts, but with a description of "the vortex of carnage" that moved from Montgomery to Prince George's County, Washington and Northern Virginia.

After shooting down Muhammad's various legal arguments, the opinion concluded: "All six of the appellant's convictions for first-degree murder are hereby confirmed. Jack the Ripper has never been brought to justice. The Beltway snipers have been."


The opinion was written by Judge Charles E. Moylan Jr., who said he has earned a reputation for sparkling legal prose during his 38 years on the bench.

"If, without compromising the legal integrity of what you're saying, you're just lucky enough to, with a reference here to history or to literature - if a paragraph may sparkle - you're happy if that's the case," he said. "And it's also what makes writing fun.

"You can't do it in every case. If you're really stuck with some zoning case, there's probably nothing someone can do to breathe life into it."

Annapolis, the name for 'doom to failure'

On the other side of the globe tomorrow, reporters will gather for an "in-depth briefing" on this topic: "Brand New Polling Data on Attitudes towards Annapolis."

Why would somebody poll foreigners about Annapolis? Overseas, do people harbor strong opinions on, say, Annapolis architecture? (You call that ancient?) Restaurants? (Enough with the namesake sandwiches!) Or municipal savoir-faire? (It's d-e-l-i, not d-e-l-l-y. You're the native English speakers. Sheesh!)

In Jerusalem, the nonprofit Israel Project will brief reporters on attitudes toward Annapolis because our capital city, like Camp David and Wye River, has become a synonym for "Middle East peace conference."

As in, "[M]any people involved in foreign policy in Washington have already made up their minds that Annapolis is doomed to failure." And: "Annapolis could be a trap for Israel."


And, "[Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert ... plans to use Annapolis to stop the rot as far as his public standing is concerned."

To readers of Mideast Mirror, a roundup of news from the region, Annapolis is a doomed, entrapping, rot-stopping kinda town. But former British Prime Minister Tony Blair described something else - a player - in an interview with the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency, which I read via the BBC.

Said Blair: "[Y]ou won't negotiate a deal from Annapolis."

Connect the dots

Catholic Baltimore, here's your chance to grab a pint with the big guy. The Sun's Liz Kay reports that Theology on Tap gathers at The Ropewalk Tavern in Federal Hill at 7 tonight to hear speaker Edwin O'Brien. Topic: "Meet Your New Archbishop!" ... Johns Hopkins President William Brody will be among the guests at New York City's Gracie Mansion tonight, celebrating a new Hopkins University Press book. Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by naturalist Leslie Day is a guide to wildlife in the Big Apple. Mayor and Hopkins grad Michael Bloomberg wrote the foreword. ... New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will appear at Baltimore's Arcos Restaurant from 5 to 7 tonight for a presidential fundraiser. ... The debate over whether Bob Ehrlich left Maryland in great financial shape or on the road to financial ruin rages on. The latest salvo comes from Ehrlich communications guy Greg Massoni, who called to take issue with Del. John Olszewski Jr.'s account of their exchange at a recent town meeting. "He was the speechless one," said Massoni, who stands by his assertion that Ehrlich "left over $1 billion surplus. O'Malley spent that surplus in the first six months." The Democrats say Ehrlich's own budget projections show he would have blown it, too.