The Baltimore Sun

Reporting suggests assumption of guilt

Most Americans insist on solid evidence of guilt before they believe an allegation of criminal conduct. That explains why many people refuse to accept federal prosecutors' conclusion that scientist Bruce E. Ivins was the anthrax killer ("Doubts persist on Ivins' guilt," Aug. 8).

There are just too many holes in that case to be certain the government could prove Mr. Ivins' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And many people also remember officials seeming certain that Mr. Ivins' colleague, Steven J. Hatfill, had committed those crimes and the irreparable damage that accusation did to an innocent person's reputation.

That is why I found two recent Sun articles disturbing.

In one, a front-page story headlined "Witness claims defense lawyer threatened him" (Aug. 8) reports that a 65-year-old veteran criminal defense attorney made a death threat against a prosecution's star homicide witness unless the witness lied and exonerated his client.

Prosecutors provided no corroborating or supporting evidence for this claim but boldly asserted that other defense lawyers commit similar misconduct.

Further into the story, we learn the prosecutor's star witness is a convicted drug dealer who was arrested last summer for gun possession. Much later, we are told that he was convicted of the gun charge and is serving a 10-year sentence as a career criminal.

In a second article on the same day, a sports reporter all but convicts 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres, competing this month in her fifth Olympics, of using performance-enhancing drugs ("Does crown fit?" Aug. 8).

Stating that "I don't mind honoring a mom, an athlete who has aged," the reporter relies on unnamed sources "around the pool" and on "many in the swimming community having their suspicions about the exact validity of her accomplishments."

Although the reporter concedes that "there's no evidence that she's cheating," he invites us to believe that she is.

The Sun must respect the principle that we all deserve to be presumed innocent until, and unless, proof of guilt is certain.

Doug Colbert, Baltimore

The writer is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Md. is preparing for BRAC influx

The Sun's article "Report sees risk in BRAC move" (Aug. 14) leaves the wrong impression about the preparations for the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process-related move of jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground, largely as a result of the planned closing of Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.

The article begins accurately enough, but it is incomplete because it overlooks other findings in the recent Government Accountability Office report on the base closure process and the significant efforts under way at the state, regional and private levels.

A recent article in The Daily Record, for instance, summarizes the many activities under way, and soon to happen, in Maryland to prepare for the BRAC process.

In Maryland, we are not done with our BRAC-related work, but that work is well under way, with a plan, a realistic schedule and substantial results achieved. The Sun's article fails to credit this hard work and momentum.

The article also fails to note that a significant part of the hiring needs for personnel now stationed at Fort Monmouth is not the result of the BRAC-related move but would have been necessary in any event because of Fort Monmouth's aging work force.

The Army recognized this and began hiring initiatives before the BRAC process. The move to APG may change the location of this problem, but it does not make it much worse.

As to the overall situation, all those trying to stop the move should note the GAO's comment that the challenges of this move "are significant but are not unique to the closure of Fort Monmouth."

Wyett H. Colclasure II, Aberdeen

The writer is president of Army Alliance Inc., an advocacy group that supports the work of the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Use our resources right here at home

Does anyone remember the Cuban missile crisis? That was a crisis involving Russia on our doorstep. We were within a heartbeat of a nuclear war. But President John F. Kennedy used his head and war was averted.

On the other hand, we now have President Bush putting our warships and planes on Russia's doorstep. He continues to take provocative steps when his only real concern is the oil in that region ("U.S. rethinks ties with Russia," Aug. 15).

He seems to be willing to risk wasting our country's dwindling resources and young people in another disastrous war over oil.

But it not the job of the United States to police the world. We have shed enough blood for political reasons.

Our country is financially heading into ruin. We are busy building roads and bridges in foreign countries while our roads and bridges are crumbling under our feet.

We are sending warships and planes to Georgia with "humanitarian aid" while our government still hasn't cleaned up New Orleans.

Our mission should be to use all our resources to find alternative fuel sources so that when we become energy independent, we may see a more peaceful world.

Florence Dorsey, Ocean Pines

An Iranian arsenal could deter attack

The writer of the letter "Why does Iran seek nuclear arsenal?" (Aug. 13) wonders why Iran would seek nuclear weapons. The reasons seem abundantly clear.

America invaded Iraq on the false pretext that it had weapons of mass destruction. But America has not invaded any nation that had such weapons.

Given talk in some quarters about an invasion of Iran, perhaps the Iranians believe it's better to really have such weapons to deter an invasion than to be accused of having them as a prelude to invasion.

And given our shameless war of aggression in Iraq, such reasoning is quite hard to refute.

Robert Birt, Baltimore

Churches can't aid all those in need

Michele Gilman's column "Faith-based initiatives: Do they really work?" (Commentary, Aug. 3) was provocative. But what seems to be missing in this discussion is the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more than 200 years ago: "When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."

There is nothing to prevent churches from engaging in all sorts of good works, and federal and state tax codes reward those who contribute to churches for such purposes.

The church I attend in Rockville, alone and in cooperation with other congregations, does what it can to help the less fortunate. But the enormous and growing needs of the poor, the uninsured, the homeless, the jobless, the sick, the elderly, etc., are so great that only government can really do what is needed.

Church and state, each in its own sphere, are called to do what they do best.

But President Bush's faith-based initiative appears to have been designed simply to win conservative votes as it flouts the First Amendment.

Edd Doerr, Silver Spring

The writer is president of Americans for Religious Liberty.

Police overlook city speeders

Do the police in Baltimore enforce residential speed limits? After four years of living on Boston Street, I would have to say no.

Boston Street from Clinton Street to Fleet Street is a heavily residential area with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Yet traffic moves at an average of about 40 mph, with many vehicles exceeding that average sharply.

I have written letters to our councilman, two mayors and two police commissioners about this issue and have yet to see a single case of speed enforcement.

What will it take - someone being killed crossing the street?

Will Kostelecky, Baltimore

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