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Bernstein: Sun draws 'reckless and irresponsible' conclusions from patient's death

Your recent editorial criticizing the report of the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office regarding the May 7 death of George King while a patient at Good Samaritan Hospital unfairly mischaracterizes our findings and analysis ("A hard report to swallow," Oct. 30).

As noted in the report, the decision not to bring criminal charges against the Baltimore City police officers involved in efforts to subdue and control Mr. King was the result of an extensive investigation that included interviews of medical staff and others who were present at the scene, an autopsy and pathological testing performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and a review of the procedures and effects regarding the use of Tasers.

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While it may be hard for you to believe that the actions of the officers did not cause or contribute to Mr. King's death, as stated in the medical examiner's autopsy report, "no credible evidence was found that restraint by medical personnel of law enforcement, use of a Taser or administration of sedating medications in the hospital caused or contributed to his death."

The medical examiner's conclusion was based on a forensic examination of Mr. King and analysis of the results of toxicology and neurological tests that were performed, which determined the cause of death to be the result of a spinal abscess and complications from meningitis.

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As lawyers and prosecutors, we make determinations of criminal responsibility based on facts and, in instances as here, assisted by the findings of experts in their respective fields whose opinions are based on a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.

Those determinations and opinions are not based on speculation, which is the basis for the opinions expressed in your editorial, and which does more to "fuel charges that the [Baltimore police] department is out of control" and "increase suspicion among ordinary citizens" than a finding that is based on a deliberate and through investigation of the facts.

Anything is "possible" under your analysis, but conjuncture and innuendo without any factual or forensic basis is irresponsible and encourages a mob mentality that prevents reasoned dialogue about ways to prevent tragedies like Mr. King's death from occurring in the future — something I would have been happy to discuss with you or any of your reporters had anyone bothered to ask.

The assumptions you make and the conclusions you draw from them are both reckless and irresponsible, particularly given the wide audience your paper reaches. You have a responsibility to objectively report the news and provide viewpoints on your editorial page that are based on facts. In this instance, you failed in that obligation.

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Gregg L. Bernstein, Baltimore

The writer is the state's attorney for Baltimore City.

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