The similarities between Carl T. Rowan, columnist, and Marion Barry, mayor, are astounding. Both are card-carrying hypocrites -- Rowan on the topic of handguns, Barry on drug use.

Less than two years ago, Rowan, outspoken columnist against private possession of handguns, having just shot an intruder, was found by police in possession of a handgun not registered to him within the District. He freely admitted this, but assault charges were dropped. He was prosecuted on possession of an unregistered handgun. This would appear to be an open-and-shut case. The law says no unregistered handguns; Rowan had an unregistered handgun. Guilty right? Wrong -- hung jury.

Barry, while preaching a get-tough policy on drugs and drug users, was videotaped smoking crack at a Washington hotel. Open-and-shut case, right? Wrong, hung jury. There must be something in the water supplied to D.C. juries.

Barry continues as mayor, and Rowan continues to write, although Barry has appointed someone to be his drug czar, and Rowan seems to avoid the handgun issue. Perhaps Rowan finds it more fun to write about his fellow hypocrites.

-- James T. Carter

Carl Rowan has every right to be outraged at the outcome of the Marion Barry trial {op-ed, Aug. 15}, but he is wrong to lay so much blame on the jury. The jury did exactly what it was instructed to do -- put aside personal feelings and render a verdict based on the evidence.

The prosecution relied on the testimony of an almost laughable parade of low-lifes and hangers-on. With witnesses of their character, Al Capone wouldn't have been convicted on as much as a parking ticket.

It is a frightening irony that the prosecution failed because the people with whom the mayor chooses to associate simply could not be believed in a court of law. If a man can be judged by the company he keeps, God help the District of Columbia.

-- Daniel O'Day