Source:  Baltimore Sun Sunspot

                    Homicide reduction pledged by summer
                    O'Malley gaining allies in campaign to reform city courts

                    By Ivan Penn
                          Sun Staff

                    Mayor Martin O'Malley, known for his impatience, said yesterday
                    that Baltimoreans will have to wait until summer before they see
                    homicides decline because the Police Department is developing its
                    crime-fighting strategy.

                    "The change is coming. Change is coming as quickly as we can bring
                    it about," O'Malley said during his weekly news conference. "I think
                    we're going to see homicides continue on a high pace for the next
                    few months."

                    The mayor's remarks came a day after the city's latest fatal shooting,
                    which left a 25-year-old man dead in West Baltimore and increased
                    the number of homicides for the year to 36. Of the 308 homicides
                    last year, 35 had occurred by this point.

                    O'Malley has made reducing homicides and drug violence a top
                    priority. Only a few weeks ago, he chided police Commissioner
                    Ronald L. Daniel for moving too slowly on the mayor's commitment
                    to clean up 10 drug-infested neighborhoods.

                    But O'Malley's impatience with the state judiciary appeared to be
                    paying off yesterday. At a meeting in Annapolis with state legislators,
                    the chief of the District Court said she wasn't opposed to providing a
                    full-time judge five days a week at the Baltimore Central Booking
                    and Intake Center, a top legislator said.

                    O'Malley said that a full-time judgein the lockup could help eliminate
                    a backlog of misdemeanor cases that clogs the court system.

                    That backlog, the mayor says, contributes to wasted police time and
                    an overcrowded court system that has trouble prosecuting violent
                    offenders -- some of whom end up back on the street because
                    prosecutors failed to try them in time.

                    Last week O'Malley blamed the state's judges for running a
                    dysfunctional court system and urged state lawmakers to withhold
                    almost $9 million in state funding for the city courts until the judiciary
                    cooperates more on reform efforts.

                    The mayor again lashed out at the state's judiciary during his weekly
                    news conference. And, in a separate news conference, Baltimore
                    County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger backed O'Malley's
                    call for reform of the city courts.

                    "There is a crisis right now in Baltimore that is affecting the entire
                    region. We must get our courts to work together as a team to make
                    a difference," Ruppersberger said. Referring to tales of the "wild
                    West," he said, "That's like Alice in Wonderland compared to what's
                    going on right now in Baltimore City."

                    O'Malley's criticism yesterday did not end with the state courts. He
                    also criticized federal judges for failing to move more quickly on gun
                    violence cases. He said such issues as heavy caseloads are no
                    excuse for failing to bring violent criminals to justice.

                    "I offer Bill Clinton the money to hire another federal judge,"
                    O'Malley said. "The judges can moan and groan all they want to. I'll
                    pay for the federal judge."

                    His comments drew immediate criticism from the chief of the U.S.
                    District Court in Maryland.

                    "I heard the mayor's comments," said U.S. District Chief Judge J.
                    Frederick Motz. "They are unfortunate and inappropriate."

                    In Annapolis, Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House
                    Appropriations Committee, and a group of legislators from the
                    appropriations and judiciary committees met privately with Baltimore
                    District Chief Judge Martha F. Rasin to discuss possible solutions to
                    the case backlog.

                    "We thought there was some resistance on her part to a five-day
                    District Court judge," Rawlings said. But, he said, "she was not

                    Rasin did not return repeated telephone calls yesterday.

                    O'Malley has asked for a judge in the lockup seven days a week
                    with a 24-hour team of prosecutors to handle bail reviews and
                    dispose of misdemeanor cases. A District Court judge and a Circuit
                    Court judge hold court at central booking two days a week.

                    Though O'Malley wants a judge in central booking seven days a
                    week, he said he's glad progress had been made in talks with the

                    "It think it's a step in the right direction," O'Malley said of a judge at
                    Central Booking five days a week. "I think it could have a big

                    Sun staff writers David Nitkin and William F. Zorzi Jr. contributed to
                    this article.

                    Originally published on Feb 18 2000