Many thanks to Chris Landers for the only objective coverage about my son Kenneth Barnes' legal and personal tragedy ("Sex, Lies and Legal Red Tape," Mobtown Beat, Dec. 5; "The Boogeyman of Roland Park," Feature, Aug. 8). When other media rushed to judgment, Chris Landers was willing to look closer at the story. In May 2007, Baltimore's television news coverage was a ravenous feeding frenzy, oblivious that they were destroying an innocent man's reputation. This contributed to the legal lynching mentality that resulted in the Maryland Parole Board's revoking Ken's parole.
Why did my son take a plea when he was innocent? Few could imagine the kind of fear we felt when Ken was accused. Ken was 36-years-old with no prior record. He could not understand why Marian was lying. And the legal representation Ken had only made things worse.
Ken's lawyer, Warren Brown, never told us the plea was a felony charge or that the plea was the same as guilty in the eyes of the law and community. When I suggested we take time to consider it, he became angry. When I asked "Doesn't it matter if someone is innocent?" he shrugged. Mr. Brown now has no memory of this. He doesn't remember only giving us 15 minutes at the second (and last) meeting with him to make this decision.
Two attorneys have said they thought Mr. Brown did a good job because Ken "walked." Had it been their innocent brother, father, or son, would they have felt this way? Because of his illness, Ken was easy prey for an aggressive state's attorney who wanted a conviction more than the truth, and an ineffective defense attorney.
My heart goes out to anyone falsely accused, and their families. The hysteria about child predators makes this the easiest crime to jail an innocent man. As a former protective service social worker who worked four years investigating child abuse, I understand the fear of child predators. I share those feelings. But I have learned that there are more innocent men than people would imagine who are falsely accused for reasons such as divorce, teen rebelliousness, and (who would believe it?) fear that her big sister's boyfriend was taking her sister away from her. I hope that people will consider how often in these cases people are falsely accused. Otherwise, "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't mean very much.
Many years ago my son took the Alford plea because he felt he had no choice. When Ken moved to Roland Park, he had changed his address with the MVA and was only a few days late with the registrar. Our family believes he was given the maximum sentence because of pressure on the state's attorney from influential people in Roland Park who wanted to get Ken out of Roland Park by any means possible.
How ironic that Marian, who now regrets the false accusations she made as a child, remembers Kenny as "the best person you'd ever want to meet."
Can the GWOT Save Us?
As an American who refuses to cocoon myself in comfort, I'm aware of the direction our nation is heading and horrified by it ("Bombs Away," Feature, Dec. 5). Most people don't care, as Scott Ritter so succinctly points out, and we will live to regret it. No doubt President Bush will take advantage of this complacency and do exactly what he wants, squandering our nation's blood and treasure. I worry that Bush's recent speech, where he downplayed Iran's nuclear ambitions might really be the "nice lull period" before the United States attacks Iran.
Anyone who visited the Inner Harbor during the Army-Navy game would not have missed the military hardware and technology displays. I made it a point to look at as much of this stuff as possible and talk with active-duty personnel. I asked when they thought we would be out of Iraq; the answer usually was, "We will never be out."
America has dug in for decades to come, and Iraq is just the beginning. While we may draw a breath of relief in learning Iran has curtailed its alleged nuclear weapons program, I fear this is the calm before the storm--a storm that will destroy America and the way of life so many of us have enjoyed.
Rosalind Nester Ellis
Cats and Rats
Your piece in this week's Mobtown Beat section on the trap-and-release neutering process ("Herding Cats," Dec. 5) left me with a question that wasn't addressed in the piece. The question is about whether feral or homeless cats have any impact on the rat population in the area. I would like to see numbers of rats and numbers of cats and what would happen to the numbers of rats if, in 13 years, feral cats are extinct. There may be little or no correlation, but inquiring minds want to know!
Chris Landers responds: According to William B. Jackson's study "Food Habits of Baltimore, Maryland, Cats in Relation to Rat Populations" (Journal of Mammalogy, November 1951), urban cats consume about 28 rats a year each. If Animal Control's Robert Anderson is right about the number of cats, and Jackson's figures hold up, there are 185,000 feral/outdoor cats in Baltimore, taking care of about 5 million rats. Unfortunately, the figures I have for rat population only count the residential areas (48,420 rats, from Judith Easterbrook's 2004 survey published in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases). There are a lot more rats in the industrial/warehouse areas that, unfortunately, remain uncounted. So the numbers sort of fail me for calculating who would win and when in a rat/cat free for all. I should note, however, that feral cats as a whole are unlikely to go extinct in 13 years; although individual colonies may die out, new colonies will form as people put their pets out on the street. The short answer: I have no idea, but now it's going to bug me.
I Am LOL
Thank you, Vincent Williams, for an interesting perspective, a well-written article, and the absolute belly-laugh that ensued from reading your "alternate title" for Charlton Heston's Omega Man (Social Studies, Nov. 28). Brilliant!
I was so pleased to read your article covering the Roman Catholic Women Priests ("Counting Their Blessings," Mobtown Beat, Nov. 21). They are pioneering a movement in the spirit of God, one that is not without risks, ridicule, worry, and hatred. This was clearly evident when I read the posts people have written online in response to the article. I am saddened that my fellow Catholics would be so condemning of them, especially since we follow Jesus, who was a radical in his own day, who bucked the system and tried to reform his religion. I have been saddened and shocked as well that so many of our church members have stayed silent about the sexual abuse scandals but are so loud when opposing something like these ordinations. I believe it is because the scandals have made people lose faith, and it is much easier to talk about something else than to face facts and grieve the faith lost at the hands of our clergy and religious.
I am in full support of these women who have gone ahead and been ordained so they may live out their priestly ministry. They are called by and are obeying God, not man (quite literally). And I come to this decision because of my Catholic upbringing, education, and formation. I often say we have a schizophrenic church--many voices that sometimes seem to contradict each other. However, as I see it, these ordinations are an example of how the voices of polarity and confusion make sense together in the hands of justice. Thank you for covering such an important movement.
Editor's note: 2007 Comics Contest winner Chris Minetree has decided to change the name of his GFY Comics to Super Amazing Adventures. Let it be written, let it be done.
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