I wonder how the judge felt when he saw Morris photo

February 10, 2008|By JOHN LEAGUE

It's a clich that a picture tells 1,000 words, but it certainly did so last month.

Kevin Gilbert's photo in the Jan. 29 edition of The Herald-Mail of snickering killer Brandon Morris after his sentencing several weeks ago told you all you wanted to know about Morris' lack of sincerity, remorse and his mocking opinion of the Maryland criminal justice system.

As the judge accurately said in court, Morris is an evil man. Moments later, Circuit Judge Joseph T. Manck chose to sentence Morris to life in prison instead of giving him the death penalty.

Shortly thereafter, photographer Gilbert snapped his photo of Morris defiantly sticking his tongue out at the camera. The message I took from that was, "I just got one over on all of you."


Morris, an inmate, was convicted of murdering Roxbury Correctional Institution Officer Jeffrey A. Wroten during a 2006 escape from Washington County Hospital, where Morris had been taken for medical attention.

Wroten, of Martinsburg, W.Va., left a family of four children. They likely face a lifetime of emotional (and perhaps financial) struggle coming to grips with a senseless, horrible act.

Morris, essentially, goes back to what he was doing - serving time in a state prison.

I have struggled with the fairness of the death penalty throughout my adult life. But the older I get, the more I seem to err on the side of using it. I don't believe for a second it's a deterrent to violent crime. But I also believe that some people do things so heinous that they forfeit the right to live and perhaps inflict more cruel and unusual punishment on innocent people.

If the judge has seen that photo, I wonder if he's had second thoughts about the sentence he imposed? Having seen that, would he opt for the death penalty?

Because the death penalty is what Morris deserves.


Home rule will be on the Washington County ballot Feb. 12, and I salute our newsroom for presenting a complete look at the home rule initiative.

With the help of Hagerstown Community College and Antietam Cable (like The Herald-Mail, also owned by Schurz Communications), The Herald-Mail last month organized a debate during which both sides thoroughly discussed the issue in a civilized and rational dialogue.

Antietam Cable showed the debate live, and rebroadcast it several times, and made it available to its on-demand customers.

The newsroom has also thoroughly covered the issue in print, with a complete package of stories in the Sunday, Jan. 27, paper and coverage of the numerous community meetings on the issue. We've also provided space for supporters and opponents on the opinion page, as well as comprehensive coverage on and on

If you're interested in the issue, and you should be, you have plenty of information available to review between now and election day.

My opinion and $1.25 will get you a Coke in The Herald-Mail lunchroom, but for the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would be against home rule.

Fact of the matter is, our county officials are just as capable, and subject to the same accountability at the ballot box, as our elected state representatives are.

More important, do we really need lawmakers from Montgomery County or Baltimore City passing judgment on issues involving Washington County? Haven't we matured enough as a community that we don't need their oversight - or anyone else's, for that matter - before we enact local laws?

Regardless, the issue will be decided Tuesday.

If you care about your community, let your voice be heard, and vote!

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. You can reach him at or weekdays at 301-733-5131, ext. 7073.

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