Letters: The death penalty

Published: Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2E

Murder victim's mother sides with Bee's new position

Re "A dysfunctional death penalty" (Editorial series, Sept. 9-16): As a mother of a 35-year-old murder victim, many people would be surprised that I agree with The Bee's change of position.

Nine years ago my 35-year-old pregnant daughter was murdered by an intruder in her home in Texas. The murderer was caught and convicted three years later. The district attorney considered the jurors' verdict of life without possibility of parole until after 30 years a defeat; for my family it was the best outcome. We were able to let go of the hatred that could have consumed our lives.

We did not have to explain to the daughter she left behind what the death penalty was. I cannot say we have forgiven, but we have let go of the hatred. That is the best we can do in my daughter's memory.

– Jan Boel, Gold River

Illinois' experience shows unfairness of death penalty

Gov. George Ryan commuted all the death sentences in the state of Illinois. He did this because when DNA evidence became available, for those cases, several death row prisoners were proven innocent.

The obvious conclusion was that for all the rest who had no DNA evidence, roughly one-third did not commit the crime they were accused of. Out of the 167 death row inmates he commuted, three of them got 40 years with possibility of parole. The rest, 164, got life without parole. Hardly a guy soft on crime.

You can look up every commutation since 1977 on deathpenaltyinfo.org. It isn't easy to get commutation. Those who want to eliminate it think that the criminal justice system only convicts the guilty and doles out justice. This is just not true. No system is perfect.

– Brian Hanley, Davis

Prop. 34 would help state focus on crime prevention

Re "Time to end the fiction of California's death penalty" (Editorials, Sept. 9): Your compelling editorial notes that "Canada has carried out few executions since 1962." That's a bit of an understatement: Canada had its last execution in 1962 and abolished the death penalty in 1976. This makes your point even clearer: U.S. and Canadian homicide rates have mostly risen and fallen together for reasons having nothing to do with the death penalty. Proposition 34 will let California focus on law enforcement measures that will really make us safer.

– Margo P. Schulter, Sacramento

Death penalty useful as bargaining chip with criminals

Many of us simply do not believe those who deny that capital punishment is a deterrent. When it comes time to extract confessions, find the victims' bodies, etc., the criminals are quite willing to give up a lot of information to take the death penalty off the table. Keep the death penalty for this reason.

– L. Truett Phillips, Sacramento

Bee's new stand should have been based on morality

Re "Why we changed stand on death penalty" (Stuart Leavenworth, Sept. 16): I agree with your opinion that the death penalty in California is an illusion. What I find troubling is your rationale. You are against it because it is not expediently enforced or an empirical deterrent, not because it is inherently immoral. That is a convenient fig leaf. Using your rationale then, if the death penalty was efficiently applied and was a deterrent, you would support it.

Abortion is also a form of death penalty, it is terribly expedient and 100 percent efficient, so using your logic that is why it can be supported.

May I suggest that both are immoral and for the same reason: They appease our lesser angels, not our higher. I would have more respect for you and the editorial board if you were against both and ditched the fig leaf.

– Donald Schell, Sacramento

Life in prison is truer punishment than death

Whether or not one thinks the death penalty is moral or unworkable is not the final question.

A more accurate question would be: Is it really punishment? When Julius Caesar was defending the Catiline conspirators in the Roman Forum, he spoke: "Is death a punishment? I deny it. By the same means that we cut off a person's joys and happiness, we remove him from all punishment."

Truer logic has never been spoken. Life imprisonment without parole is true punishment. Death is not.

– Burt Wilson, Sacramento

How can life in prison be cheaper than execution?

I am a Christian, and I believe in forgiveness. However, I believe we should keep the death penalty. Some politicians would have us believe it costs too much money. This is wrong. If we let them live and I have to keep paying for them with my hard-earned money, how is that less expensive?

– Lisanne DeMarco, Rocklin

Liberals made death penalty too slow, too expensive

For years liberals have been creating more ways for death row inmates to file appeals. These appeals slow down the execution process and raise costs. Now they have the nerve to complain that the process is too slow and costly.

There has been little reporting in The Bee on the origins and developments of the appeals quagmire. Only the results. This superficial simplicity is not thorough, honest or helpful.

Discussions about money, deterrence and revenge are the topics of letters that get printed. But the real problem is the manipulation of the legal system.

The voters have already spoken on the issue of executions, but liberal lawyers continue to ignore the results of democracy to advance and impose their ideology at the taxpayers' expense.

Let's see some in-depth reporting about that before the November election.

– Daniel McMasters, Sacramento

Death penalty proponents guilty of 'willful ignorance'

Re "Bee's position is irresponsible" and "Execute on the day after conviction" (Forum, Letters, Sept. 16): Sunday's letters featured two of the populist right's favorite tactics: Dismissing figures they disagree with without providing figures that back up their arguments, and knee-jerk reactions designed to inflame without being based in reality. Dan Yarbrough asks for "accurate" prison accounting numbers, when plenty of studies on the matter have been published and accredited. Bob Marshall demands immediate execution, especially when convicted on "eyewitness" testimony.

Most prisoners exonerated from death row by DNA evidence were originally placed there by "eyewitness" testimony. Too many people are quick to be influenced by slogans and propaganda without ever researching the issues they claim to champion. In today's age of unlimited information from all sides and sources, that's just willful ignorance.

– Richard D. Russell, Carmichael

Life sentence is like a license to kill for an amoral person

Re "Should the death penalty be scrapped?" (Forum, Sept. 16): To all of those who think the death penalty is barbaric I would pose the following question. Under what circumstance would you be willing to give an amoral person a license to kill?

If your answer is anything other than "none" there is something wrong with you. But that is exactly what you give to anyone in prison doing life without possibility of parole.

– Paul H. Greisen, Sacramento

Send death row prisoners to Texas on one-way ride

Since Californians won't agree on the death penalty, why not ask Texas if it would execute these prisoners for a fee? That would solve the problem and we wouldn't have to spend millions here in California.

– Will Judson, Elk Grove

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