All those emotions stirred up by last summer's drug and perjury trial of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry inspired people to literature. Or at least to commit ink to paper, judging from the steady flow of mail that has come into the chambers of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ever since.

Jackson said yesterday that he has received more letters about Barry's trial and subsequent six-month sentence for cocaine possession than he has about any case in his eight years on the bench, with the possible exception of the perjury trial of former White House aide Michael K. Deaver.

"I still get about one or two {letters} a day," the judge said, "although I think maybe they'll slack off now."

Maybe, maybe not. In the meantime, the letters Jackson has collected so far fill a bulky brown legal folder -- testimony to the proposition that dramatic trials may not produce reliable public opinion data, but they do produce interesting pen pals.

At least half of them, judging from their letters, are people whose grip on reality seems tenuous. There were, for instance, several people with sincere but highly colorful religious convictions, including the Maryland woman who signed herself, "Mrs. God Jesus Christ" and attached sleigh bells to one of her missives.

But many of the letters are from people who simply felt impassioned enough to roll a sheet of paper into a typewriter or grab pen and paper -- an act rare enough by modern standards, but perhaps made more likely in this instance by the fact that Jackson refuses to take phone calls about the case.

Some fall under the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" heading. For example, the retired social worker from Vancouver, B.C., who wrote to commend Jackson on his handling of the case, explaining that it was her club project to write one positive letter a month on some social issue. "Were we to write only criticism," she added, "we would never be finished with the pen!"

Others eschewed even the half-baked compliment. "Jackson, you look old enough to retire. Please do," said one irate writer from Northern Viriginia who thought the judge let the mayor off too lightly.

Some letters proved that you can't tell a book by its cover. "I am white -- and Republican -- and I voted for Goldwater, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush," wrote one Northwest Washington resident. "Despite this," he added soberly, "I do not approve of injustice, in any form."

What's more, this GOP member thought that January's drug sting at the Vista Hotel, in which the FBI secretly videotaped Barry smoking crack, was entrapment. "I would seek indictment of the head of the FBI and arresting agents and of the {U.S.} attorney on charges of criminal conspiracy," the Republican wrote. "I am serious."

Barry seemed to provide a personal outlet for the pent-up hostility of some writers.

"A curse on Marion Barry," wrote one 71-year-old man from Laurel, Miss. Wrote another correspondent from McLean: "The one thing I'll never forgive {Barry} for is his profaning the images of Amos 'n Andy."

In other letters, whites and blacks said to Jackson what they might never say to each other in everyday life, where thoughts on race are usually masked under a veil of indifference or civility.

For example, this from a woman from Arlington: "Everyone knows that if Barry had been white he would have been removed years ago. Timidity on the part of whites and the fear of being labeled racists have been responsible for Barry's remaining in power."

And this, from Burke: "One cannot blame the Colombian government for their feelings of frustration to have the mayor of the capitol of the U.S. walk away because he's invincible, as he claims."

Versus this, from a black lawyer in Alexandria: "The so-called justice we have seen in your courtroom is actually injustice, and it stinks! . . . You have prevented the jury from hearing the most important aspects of the case. It is clearly important for them to know exactly how and why the government entrapped or trapped Mr. Barry, as you must know he was."

Or this, from another black lawyer, this one from Spokane, Wash.: "You are a classic example of the 'white man's judge.' You have been accustomed to sitting on a bench with an all-white American judicial system that usually provides all-white juries who with regularity convict and convict and convict black defendants and you are only too quick to accept the mouthings of an Ivy League graduate or any white dilettante prosecutor or judge. It is peculiar to you when a jury does not convict a black defendant."

Still, salted in with all the impassioned advocacy for one point or another, there were a few letters that were different -- earnest queries about how the trial worked, for example, or ideas about how to make the jury system operate better next time. (One writer's hint: make sure jury foremen have outside management experience.)

And there was one handwritten suggestion, signed by "Just Us for Justice," sent to the judge's chambers in late July, near the end of the trial.

In it, some anonymous citizens offered what, judging from the edgy tone of most of the correspondence, was a truly novel thought -- that jurors should judge Barry by the standards of Martin Luther King Jr.

"Don't judge a man by the color of his skin," they wrote, paraphrasing King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech only slightly, "but by the contents of his character."