In the News 1/11/07

While most of Maryland is stocking up on purple face paint and 12-packs of Natty Boh in anticipation of Saturdays Ravens/Colts playoff contest, there are some interesting things happening for the Baltimore Orioles.

Cal Ripken, recent Hall of Fame inductee, has declared his interest in buying the Orioles franchise from Peter Angelos. This is great news for Orioles fans, should Angelos really decide to sell the team. The Orioles have suffered from poor ownership for years. Ownership that has refused to do what is necessary to win, be it spending more cash on quality players or improving the farm system. Ripken has been doing his thing with the Ironbirds, and I would love to see him try his hand with the Orioles.


Martin O'Malley will officially leave Baltimore for Annapolis next week. He leaves the city in better shape than when he became Mayor, seven years ago.
Still, by almost any objective measure, the city has improved under O'Malley's watch in a number of key areas, from homicides to health to housing prices - sometimes marginally, sometimes markedly... And where it has not improved in absolute terms, such as population growth, the rate of decline has slowed.

His legacy includes CitiStat and the 311 call center, Project 5000 for systematically taking control of vacant properties, and the notion of building on strength in community development.

He also demonstrated that small targeted investments, in facilities that include playgrounds and supermarkets, can pay big dividends.

And he pushed big-ticket redevelopment projects, such as the East Baltimore biotech park and the west-side initiative that dominated yesterday's Board of Estimates meeting.
Democrats in Maryland are looking forward to big things from O'Malley. The list of accomplishments above seems a little bare. Lets hope the Governor can deliver more for Maryland, including Baltimore City, once he reaches Annapolis.

UPDATE: Bruce Godfrey at Crablaw thinks the O'Malley needs to get to work on choosing his cabinet. I am inclined to agree. Of course, there is always time to kick a field goal or two.

Incoming Mayor Sheila Dixon has been cleared in an ethics inquiry.


And finally, Baltimore City has started the year off with a "bang". It turns out that the suspect in the recent murder of Police Officer Troy Lamont Chesley Sr. had a rather long criminal record, a record that should have put him behind bars long before he had a chance to commit such a heinous crime.
When the future of Brandon Grimes was in the hands of Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock nearly two years ago, he had two previous criminal convictions - both for nonviolent offenses - on his record. And the new charges before the judge were also for nonviolent offenses committed while he was on probation.

So Murdock - like other city judges routinely dealing with towering caseloads - accepted a guilty plea from Grimes for theft and multiple probation violations, giving him four concurrent six-month prison sentences.

But under a previously suspended sentence for an earlier conviction, Murdock could have put him away for as long as 10 years. Now Grimes stands accused of killing an off-duty city police officer this week in a botched robbery.
As the Judge says in the article, he doesn't have a crystal ball that tells him which offenders will be violent and which will not. Instead, Judges in the city must walk a fine line.
Judge John M. Glynn, chairman of the coordinating council and chief of the Circuit Court's criminal docket, said at the meeting that "we have to acknowledge the systemic failures."

In an interview after the meeting, Glynn said that the city Circuit Court system deals with about 10,000 felony cases a year but has the capacity to hold only about 500 jury trials.
This highlights the difficulty faced by police and judges in Baltimore City. There is just too much crime. They lack the resources and space to prosecute and jail offenders of all stripes.
...Murdock's action in Grimes' case in 2005 - where the penalties for a probation violation and a new offense are combined when a defendant agrees to plead guilty - has become common in a court system struggling to respond to the "huge number of crimes we have in the city of Baltimore."
Now, Grimes in no angel, and his criminal record speaks to this fact.
As an adult, Grimes was arrested about 17 times, almost entirely in Baltimore, according to law enforcement records. His charges over a 3 1/2 -year period included: drug possession; stolen auto; destruction of property; burglary; theft; traffic violations; false statement to police; assault and reckless endangerment, court records show.
So why wasn't Mr. Grimes in jail. Well, no one seems to really know. The "system" is simply "broken". I would argue that the system isn't broken, but instead is overburdened with non-violent offenders, and some number of them must have committed drug crimes. Eliminate those "crimes" by legalizing drugs, and I expect that the "huge number of crimes" will go down quickly.

Sadly, the solution will either be inaction or escalation, most likely the latter. Build more prisons, build a larger court, hire more police. If the system is so horribly broken, I think all options need to be put on the table as possible solutions.

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