Morris deserved death penalty

The Baltimore Sun

As a former juror for a death penalty case in Maryland, I was very disappointed by Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck's reasoning in sparing the life of Brandon T. Morris.

Based on The Sun's article "Guard's killer evades death" (Jan. 29), it appeared that his primary reason for sentencing Mr. Morris to life without parole instead of death was to spare the family of murdered correctional officer Jeffery A. Wroten from "the most cruel and unusual punishment" he assumes the family would go through if Mr. Morris spent at least the next few years sitting on Maryland's death row as his numerous appeals made their way through the legal system.

I realize that Judge Manck has some experience in this area outside of his judiciary duties (tragically, his mother's life was taken in a 1995 murder); however, the judge needs to realize that the Wrotens did not ask to be spared from anything.

Indeed, according to The Sun's account, they were hoping that Mr. Morris would be sentenced to death.

To me, this is not justice or an example of a judge upholding the laws of the state; it is judging from the bench with an agenda.

And if shooting a correctional officer in the face does not warrant the highest form of punishment allowed in the state, then I guess, in Judge Manck's eyes, nothing would.

I realize that every death penalty case is different and must be viewed strictly on its merits.

However, as someone who was charged with the same humbling responsibility Judge Manck was charged with, I am extremely disappointed that he chose the easy way out.

Ken Rohrer


Tax sales are unfair to property owners

I want to lend my strong support to Jay A. Dackman's argument about the need to end the abuse of tax sales ("Time to end abuse in tax-sale cases," Opinion Commentary, Jan. 30).

I agree with his recommendations for a cap on attorney fees and additional notice in such cases. But I believe even more reforms are needed.

I was involved in a situation in which a property I owned in Baltimore worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was sold at a tax sale for a delinquent water bill of about $400. (And Baltimore treats a water bill as a lien on a property just like a tax bill.)

I received no advance notice of the delinquency or the sale, and the water bill was delinquent because I had received no water bills from the city.

Maybe they were sent to the wrong address.

I was lucky to receive my first notice of the sale two months after it occurred but in time to pay the bill and redeem the property. But the situation easily could have ended disastrously.

I believe it is grossly unreasonable for a government to sell a property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to satisfy a $400 bill, particularly given the casual way these proceedings are carried out.

I realize tax sales are a time-honored practice. But at the very least, we must have a requirement that property owners receive actual notice of the delinquency and of any possible proceedings - and that other remedies, such as documented lien or collection proceedings, have been undertaken before any sale can be considered.

Charles Markell


Industry is recycling the chicken waste

After reading "Maryland's dirty secrets" (Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 24), I am compelled to respond to the allegations by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Howard Ernst.

Agriculture, like municipal wastewater treatment plants and residential development, has a role in helping to reduce nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay. But most environmental groups agree that agriculture is better for the environment than development.

Waters from the Delmarva Peninsula contribute less than 8 percent of the stream flow into the bay. The Susquehanna River, the Potomac River and the James River contribute 85 percent of the flow.

And describing poultry litter as "toxic animal waste" is just wrong. It is, in fact, an organic fertilizer, valued by crop producers because it adds organic matter to the soil while providing a slow release for nutrients for their crops.

That's an important reason why poultry growers, who generally are also crop producers, retain ownership of the poultry litter. If poultry litter is not used as a fertilizer, chemical fertilizer will be used.

Following the Water Quality Act of 1998, Perdue invested more than $13 million and built the largest poultry litter recycling plant in the United States.

Since the plant's opening in 2001, Perdue AgriRecycle has handled almost 2 billion pounds of litter from 2,300 poultry houses, and redirected the equivalent of 15.4 million pounds of nitrogen, 7.7 million pounds of phosphorus and 11.5 million pounds of potassium to areas that can use these nutrients.

More than 70 percent of the certified organic fertilizer products produced by Perdue Agri-Recycle last year were shipped to states outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Perdue is also working directly with growers who contract with us to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

And our contracts require our chicken growers to have nutrient management plans and comply with all local, state and federal regulations.

Steve Schwalb


The writer is a vice president of Perdue Farms Inc.

Other presidents also slept here

The Sun's editorial notebook "He slept here" (Jan. 26), regarding the possible landmark designation of a former Middle River residence of Richard Nixon, states that Maryland "hasn't had much association with American presidents over the years. Jimmy Carter lived at the Naval Academy for three years, and every president since Franklin Roosevelt has gone to what is now Camp David - but other than that, the pickings are a bit slim."

This is not entirely correct.

In September 1883, a 26-year-old Woodrow Wilson moved to Baltimore to attend graduate school at the Johns Hopkins University.

He lived here for two years and wrote his first book, Congressional Government, in Baltimore. Although he left in 1885 to marry and become a professor at Bryn Mawr College, Wilson was awarded a Ph.D. from Hopkins in 1886.

Thanks to the efforts of local historian Frank Shivers, as well as Bolton Hill resident Polly Duke and others, Wilson's Baltimore residence at 1210 Eutaw Place is marked with a blue plaque.

In addition to Wilson, John Hanson, a native Marylander, served as president of the United States in Congress Assembled (a pre-constitutional office under the Articles of Confederation).

And if not for his own indiscretions, another native Marylander might have succeeded President Nixon instead of Gerald Ford.

Spiro Agnew, a former Baltimore County executive and the 55th governor of Maryland, lived his entire life in Maryland (except for his World War II service in Europe) prior to becoming the 39th vice president of the United States.

As far as I know, nobody has proposed a landmark designation for an Agnew residence or historic site in the Baltimore area.

Fred B. Shoken


The writer is a planner for Baltimore's Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation.

Give children time to try various games

The column "Prep sports should be a joy, not a job" (Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 29) by Kelsey F. Twist hit the nail on the head.

I coached Ms. Twist at the youth level many years ago. She was smart, a great athlete and a true competitor. But her greatest gift is one her parents gave her - balance.

She played multiple sports and never focused on one sport year-round. The consequence: a great athletic career.

But today, as president of the Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association, I daily witness parents who decide by the time their child is 9 years old that he or she will focus on lacrosse in the hope of obtaining their ultimate goal - a scholarship to a Division I university.

These parents have their child play in recreation leagues, for a private school team and for a club team, and sign them up for as many camps as possible.

When parents seek my opinion, I am quick to ask them if their intent is to mold a well-rounded athlete or a one-dimensional lacrosse player and to remind them that high school and college coaches want well-rounded athletes.

Parents need to give their kids some downtime, to let them play in the backyard with their friends, and most important, to let them play the in-season sport.

Otherwise, as this column suggests, the kids will burn out.

Ruthie Lavelle


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