Red Herring: the Rhetorical Refuge of the Critical-Issue-Averse Pat Jessamy

–Richard E. Vatz

State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy wants everyone to know that she is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore. You are forewarned: the status quo is over.

Is she apoplectic at the fact that too few Baltimore felons are tried?

Is she appalled at the criminal-freeing effects brought about by the high threshold of proof she requires before trying a case?

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Is she outraged at judges like Baltimore Circuit Court Judge John Addison Howard who wink at despicable felons’ multiple parole violations and rarely give them serious, lengthy sentences?

No, in the narrative of The Baltimore Sun’s Justin Fenton, she has “questioned the ‘integrity and credibility’ “of [Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III]…calling for an independent investigation into whether [he] has solicited votes for her opponent in the Democratic primary while on duty…[s]he said an independent investigation ‘will establish whether our police commissioner is a person of truth and veracity, or not. … We need a police commissioner who is truthful and honest.’“

Now there’s a valid measure of the gestalt of a man’s integrity: whether he was on-duty, as he says, when he mentioned that someone should consider supporting an opponent of Mrs. Jessamy.

Commissioner Bealefeld unsurprisingly has taken down the signs supporting that opponent for City State’s Attorney, Gregg Bernstein, saying that the public fight over the legal signs was becoming a distraction. The signs also outraged the always selectively outraged Mrs. Jessamy.

Her investigation recommendation is known in logic as a “red herring,” a rhetorical act of misdirection, in this case to get everyone’s mind off the threat of violent criminality in Baltimore City, criminality suffered easily by the criminal-friendly prosecutor’s office and judges in Baltimore.

This Red Maryland columnist has weighed in on the contemptibly weak criminal justice systems of Baltimore City and to a lesser extent Baltimore County. The scandalous juridical component of justice in the former location should be a source of fear and loathing to its denizens.

During the recrimination period following the public discussion of the arrant incompetence by judges, the State’s Attorney’s prosecution team and the police in the murder of Stephen Pitcairn and other violence and offender-investigation obligations, only Police Commissioner Frederick H Bealefeld III acted in a manner responsive to the provocations. He stated his outrage and among other preliminary steps required that officers may not leave alleged rape scenes without filing reports. He also as a private citizen, as mentioned, supported a more aggressive candidate for City State’s Attorney.

When Pat Jessamy is re-elected City State’s Attorney — as she surely will be — those who vote for her will deserve the criminal justice system that an indolent and irresponsible prosecutor such as she brings to the city. That system may also be the expected consequence for those who do not act to ensure the election and/or choices of better, more responsible judges than Judge Howard (and those like him) who gave pass after pass after pass after pass to the killer John Wagner.

The large number of dissenters to her new term will not deserve such a system.

That’s the pity: those are the truly innocent victims.

–Professor Vatz teaches rhetoric and communication at Towson University

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