Oct. 16


Death penalty too fallible to endure

The bottom line on the death penalty deserves to be at the top of any discussion of the death penalty, so here it is:

To support the death penalty, you must be willing to take the chance that the state will execute an innocent person.

The development of DNA technology proved how often the criminal justice system can go awry. Scores of death row inmates have been released after they were cleared by DNA evidence.

1 of them was Ray Krone, who spent 10 years in prison, including 3 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. At least 1 of the votes in the Legislature to repeal the death penalty came after the senator talked with Krone.

If it happened to Krone, a former Air Force sergeant with no criminal record, "It can happen to anybody," Krone says.

Could you sit across a desk from Krone and tell him you don't care if the occasional innocent person is executed?

Nebraskans know how fallible the criminal system can be. The "Beatrice 6" were railroaded into prison for a murder they did not commit. Finally DNA showed someone else committed the crime. Now Gage County is on the hook for $28.1 million in damages. It has been described as the largest false confession case in American history.

Jerry Givens executed 62 people in Virgina. He was within days of executing No. 63, but before he pulled the switch on the electric chair one more time, the inmate won a reprieve. Ultimately the inmate was exonerated and given a full pardon on the basis of DNA evidence.

Now Givens opposes the death penalty. "If I execute an innocent person, I'm no better than the people on death row," he said.

Most of the errors in the criminal justice system are made by well-meaning people who simply make mistakes.

There's another way that the justice system can miscarry. Sometimes people act with actual malice. They try to take the law into their own hands. The former head of the Crime Investigation Unit in Omaha was sentenced to prison for planting evidence that led to the wrongful arrest of 2 men for the murder of Wayne and Sharmon Stock, found shot to death in their farm house near Murdock in 2006. 2 other people were convicted for the crime.

Experts have been working for hundreds of years to rid death penalty system of the possibility of error. All they have done is add seemingly endless routes of appeal that make the death penalty horrendously expensive.

A better option than risking the possibility of executing an innocent person is replacing the death penalty with life in prison. That's why we urge Nebraskans to retain the repeal voted into law by 32 state senators.

This is the 1st of 2 editorials on Referendum No. 426 on the Nov. 8 ballot. Tomorrow's editorial lays out the conservative argument for replacing the death penalty with life in prison.

(source: Editorial Board, Lincoln Journal Star)


Death penalty in Nebraska: Periodic rise and fall of opposition

Voters will consider a historic ballot measure next month to restore Nebraska's death penalty after the Legislature repealed it in 2015. The World-Herald is exploring several aspects of capital punishment, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. Today: the evolution of the death penalty.

* * * * *

Iowa eliminated its death penalty during the last wave of opposition to capital punishment across the United States.

It was 1965. Democrats had gained control of the State Legislature. Gov. Harold Hughes, a fervent death penalty opponent, had handily won re-election.

A majority of Iowans had come around to his view, with polls that year showing 57 % favored repeal.

Soon after convening for the year, lawmakers of both parties voted for the repeal, and Hughes quickly signed it into law.

A half century later, Iowa remains without a death penalty, and despite occasional debates, lawmakers say it's generally considered a settled issue.

"Iowans have grown up without the death penalty," said State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. "We know that it's not needed."

Now, Nebraskans are deciding whether to revive their state's death penalty as a new wave of opposition to capital punishment builds across the nation.

The vote will join other milestones in the history of the death penalty in the United States.

It's a history older than the country itself and one marked by the periodic rise and fall of opposition. It's also a history in which the overarching trend has been away from state-sponsored execution.

Currently the number of states without a death penalty stands at an all-time high, the number of executions is approaching a 25-year low, and polls are finding support for the ultimate punishment slipping for both pragmatic and moral reasons.

The death penalty is not dead, however. It remains the law in the majority of states, the latest poll shows more support than opposition, and religious institutions remain divided over its morality.

Opponents cite the actions of a conservative Nebraska Legislature as evidence that momentum is in their favor.

State lawmakers last year overrode a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts to repeal the death penalty. Ricketts and other capital punishment supporters responded with a referendum petition.

The petition's success put the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot, meaning voters will decide whether to let the repeal stand or to undo it and put the death penalty back on the books.

Nebraska is 1 of 20 states that have done away with their death penalties. 8 have done so in the past decade alone.

That marks a major shift for a punishment that has been part of the United States since the early days of European settlement.

Punishment for murder, arson, horse-stealing

In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, all 13 colonies had the death penalty.

Most prescribed death for murder, arson, piracy, treason, sodomy, burglary, robbery, rape, horse-stealing, slave rebellion and sometimes counterfeiting.

Some states developed longer lists of capital crimes, especially related to slavery.

In 1837 in North Carolina, for example, people could be executed for slave-stealing, hiding a slave with intent to free him, inciting slaves to rebel and circulating seditious literature among slaves.

In both Nebraska and Iowa, the death penalty dates to their pre-statehood days.

In Nebraska, the punishment was carried out by individual counties until the turn of the century.

The cases include the 1887 hanging of Jack Marion in Gage County. He was executed for the 1872 murder of John Cameron, his former traveling companion.

Marion maintained his innocence throughout 2 trials and an appeal. It turned out he was telling the truth.

Four years after the hanging, Cameron was found alive and well in Kansas City, Missouri.

Iowa ended its death penalty in 1872, only to see mobs take matters into their own hands. The death penalty was reinstated in 1879, in part to prevent vigilante lynchings.

Scope of death penalty limited

Opposition to capital punishment has had almost as long a history in the U.S. as the death penalty itself.

The essay "On Crime and Punishment" by Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria was especially influential. It was published in English in 1767.

In it, Beccaria argued for abolishing capital punishment. He said the sole justification for state-sponsored execution would be the rare case in which no other means could ensure the security of a nation. He also argued that capital punishment was ineffective in deterring evil-doing.

Reformers made some inroads during the nation's 1st century. Several states narrowed the list of capital crimes. Many also passed laws barring public executions.

Michigan became the 1st state to do away with the death penalty, in 1846. The number of other states without capital punishment rose and fell during the years that followed.

11 had abolished it by 1916, but only 4 were without it from 1939 through 1956.

Meanwhile, the number of executions in the U.S. reached an all-time high during the Great Depression. There were 197 executions in 1935 and 196 the following year.

Historian William McFeely noted the increase in executions during the 1930s came as mob lynchings of African-American men almost ceased.

Legal executions of African-Americans continued at disproportionate rates. From 1900 through 2002, 4,122 African-Americans were executed in the U.S., compared with 3,625 whites.

African-Americans never accounted for more than 12.3 % of the general population during those years, according to census figures.

A new wave of opposition to the death penalty arose during the 1960s, along with the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War protests.

Iowa was among the states that did away with their death penalty during that turbulent decade. Although 40 states maintained their laws, the number of executions fell to zero by 1968.

Polls showed that public support for the death penalty had dropped to 42 % in 1966, while opposition was at 47 %.

The wave culminated in 1972 with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a Georgia case involving an African-American defendant, William Henry Furman. The court ruled that the death penalty, as applied in most states, was unconstitutionally arbitrary and discriminatory.

The ruling effectively suspended the death penalty by overturning state laws, including Nebraska's law. Hundreds of death sentences nationwide were commuted to life imprisonment in the wake of the decision.

Country turns more conservative

But support for the death penalty rebounded strongly following the ruling, as the country turned more conservative.

States quickly revised their laws to comply with the court ruling and reinstate capital punishment. Nebraska did so in 1973. The 1976 Supreme Court, ruling in another Georgia case, gave the constitutional stamp of approval to the revisions.

The new laws required a balancing of aggravating and mitigating factors and required the sentencing phase of a death penalty case to be separated from the guilt or innocence phase.

35 states revived their death penalties by 1979, with another three doing so by 1995.

Iowa lawmakers debated reinstatement multiple times in the 1990s, but the proposals all failed, as did a bill introduced last year by Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull.

It would have allowed executions in cases where a child was kidnapped, raped and murdered. Feenstra said he offered the proposal because of a pair of heinous murders of young girls, although he knew there was not support for changing the law.

"It was more of a conversation with other legislators and a conversation with society," he said.

By 1994, polls showed that 80 % of Americans backed the death penalty while only 16 % opposed it.

The support was spurred in part by a steep increase in crime during the preceding 2 decades.

But that represented the peak year of support for capital punishment, dating back to 1936, when the polling firm Gallup began asking about the issue.

The tide has been turning away ever since, with support for the death penalty dropping along with murder rates.

The most recent national poll, released at the end of September, showed that 49 % of Americans favored the death penalty and 42 % opposed it.

Backing for the death penalty appears higher in Nebraska, however.

More than 143,000 registered voters signed the referendum petition in 2015, enough to put the issue before voters and to keep the repeal law from taking effect before the vote.

An August survey of likely voters, commissioned by a pro-death penalty group, showed that 58 % would vote to keep the death penalty and 30 % would vote for the law repealing it. Opponents criticized the survey because it did not tell people that the death penalty would be replaced with life in prison.

Declining national support has been followed by an increase in the number of states eliminating the death penalty.

At the same time, those with capital punishment are sending fewer and fewer people to death row. Last year, 49 people were sentenced to death nationally, compared with 295 in 1998.

Executions also are dropping off. There have been 16 so far this year - the fewest since 1991, when 14 people were put to death. Eleven states with the death penalty have not executed anyone in at least 10 years. Nebraska's last execution was in 1997.

Few death sentences carried out

State and national observers say several factors are contributing to the most recent wave of opposition.

One is the number of death row inmates who have been exonerated: 156 nationally since the death penalty was revived in 1973.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the growing power of DNA testing has proven some inmates innocent.

Their cases, in turn, have called into question other evidence prosecutors used to win convictions, from coerced confessions to prison informants who give false testimony.

Nebraska has had its own experiences with exonerations, including the 6 people wrongly convicted of a 1985 slaying in Beatrice, and the case of Darrel Parker, who was wrongly convicted in the 1955 rape and murder of his wife in Lincoln. None of the 7 were on death row, although the Beatrice 6 were threatened with the death penalty.

Dunham said there is strong evidence that innocent people have been executed in recent decades, although there are not formal exonerations of those people. Courts generally do not consider claims of innocence regarding people who are dead.

"We now know, and the American people accept, that there is a risk innocent people can be executed," he said.

A 2015 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 71 % of Americans believe there is "some risk" an innocent person will be put to death. Even among people who favor the death penalty, 63 % believe there is a risk.

But William Otis, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University and special counsel to President George H.W. Bush, said there are areas in which society is willing to risk innocent lives for a larger goal.

Higher speed limits, for example, get people to their destinations faster but mean more fatal accidents. The nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than 200,000 people but likely speeded up the end of World War II.

"For some crimes it is worth it even though it has high costs," he said.

Another factor has been the emergence of conservative opponents basing their positions on pragmatic arguments.

Eric Berger, a law professor at the University of Nebraska, said such state senators played a critical role in the Nebraska repeal.

He said they may support capital punishment in theory but argue that in practice it has become a failed government program, one that costs too much and doesn't achieve its goals.

Death penalty cases cost more than those involving life imprisonment, according to numerous national studies.

A recent analysis by Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss concluded that having the death penalty costs Nebraska an average of $14.6 million annually. Death penalty supporters contested his conclusions, saying the difference in costs is minimal.

Meanwhile, the long, cumbersome appeals process and the difficulties obtaining lethal injection drugs have meant that few death sentences are ever carried out.

No more than 2 % of death row inmates have been executed in any of the past 15 years.

"If we really care about the sanctity of life and about the victims of all those crimes, couldn't we put all that money to better use?" Berger asked.

Supporters of capital punishment, however, argue that getting justice for murder victims and their families is worth the costs and obstacles.

"I support it because some murders are so grotesque that prison is not enough," Otis said. "That is the reason I think the death penalty has continued to enjoy popularity."

Polls show that, by far, the top reason people back the death penalty is their belief that the punishment fits the crime. More than 1/2 gave that reason for their support in both 1991 and 2011 polls.

Other arguments have lost favor. 6 % of supporters in the more recent poll said the death penalty deters crime, down from 13 % in 1991.

Many supporters believe the death penalty is needed "for the worst of the worst," said Lisa Kort-Butler, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"There seems to be a symbolic argument that this is something we have to have to say that we???re tough on crime," she said.

Evolving - religious views

Another factor has been the evolution of religious positions.

While the Catholic Church previously taught that the death penalty was acceptable as a means to defend society, the church now is working to end capital punishment.

Pope John Paul II declared in a 1995 encyclical that modern society can protect itself from criminals without denying them the dignity of human life and the possibility of reform.

This summer, the current pontiff, Pope Francis, called for a world "free of the death penalty." Church leaders have been integral to the repeal effort in Nebraska.

A Pew poll this year found support for the death penalty had fallen to 43 % among Catholics, while it was at 69 % among white evangelical Protestants.

But even among evangelicals, attitudes are changing. A year ago the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents nearly 40 evangelical Christian denominations, revised its position statement on the death penalty to acknowledge differing views on the issue. The group's previous statement supported capital punishment.

The past few decades also have seen the United States become increasingly isolated in its use of the death penalty.

According to Amnesty International, an average of 3 countries have renounced the death penalty each year since 1990.

As of June, 103 countries had no death penalty, including Canada, Australia and almost all of Europe and Latin America. 6 countries allow it for exceptional circumstances only, and 31 have it but have a practice of not using it.

The 58 countries with the death penalty, however, include some of the world's largest: China, Russia, India, Japan and the United States.

They also include almost all of the Muslim majority countries. Islam accepts capital punishment for murder and crimes that harm or threaten the state.

Kort-Butler, the sociologist, and Otis, the Georgetown law professor, questioned whether Americans are influenced much by the international trends. He noted that the U.S. has a different history, culture, law and demographics.

"I think the death penalty is symbolic," Otis said. "For opponents, it is a symbol that the state is not going to go forward with killing out of principle. For supporters, it says we should have the moral confidence to say 'no' and mean it."

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Canadian on death row hangs hopes on Liberal government

A Canadian on death row in Montana has been living on borrowed time since admitting he murdered 2 young men more than 3 decades ago, but he says he has renewed hope he might be able to return home with the support of Justin Trudeau's government.

"I'm ready to come home," said Ronald Smith, 59, in an interview with The Canadian Press last week at Montana State Prison. "If you're willing to take me back, I'm willing to come home,"

Smith, who is originally from Red Deer, Alta., has been on death row since 1983 for fatally shooting Harvey Madman Jr. and Thomas Running Rabbit while he was high on LSD and alcohol near East Glacier, Mont.

It's a statement Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion issued in February following a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that is giving Smith new hope.

"If the government of Canada does not ask for clemency for every Canadian facing the death penalty, how can we be credible when we ask for clemency in selective cases or countries?" Dion asked. "We must end this incoherent double standard. Canada opposes the death penalty and will ask for clemency in each and every case, no exceptions."

That's a marked shift from the former Conservative government, which initially decided against seeking clemency for Smith or any other multiple murderer facing the death penalty in a democratic country. A court ruling later forced the government to abandon the policy but Smith's lawyer accused it of "treachery" for its handling of a clemency hearing in 2012.

"I'm considerably more optimistic," Smith said. "I'm considerably more positive about the Canadian government becoming involved at least, and with their involvement I think it bodes well for me."

Smith, who will become a great-grandfather next year, hasn't changed much over the years. His red hair is still shoulder length and the only grey is in his moustache.

Back when he was first charged, he refused a plea deal that would have seen him get a life sentence and instead asked for the death penalty.

Smith had a change of heart and has been on a legal roller-coaster for decades. An execution date has been set five times and each time the order was overturned.

He said the only reason he changed his mind about accepting his death sentence was because of his daughter, who he reconnected with about 10 years ago.

"I figured the way the law worked that the appeals process would run out in 10 years and then I would be executed. I was wrong," Smith said. "I didn't think it was going to be possible to stretch this out."

While Smith's family is anxious to see him spared, the family members of his victims have lobbied for his death.

"The decisions he made he has to pay for," Running Rabbit's son told Smith's clemency hearing in 2012. "He had no mercy for my father -- a person I have never met."

It's unclear when there might be movement in Smith's case either way.

All executions in Montana have been on hold since 2008 when a court fight began over the types of drugs used during the process.

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada confirmed last week that the Canadian government supports Smith's bid for clemency, but didn't elaborate.

"The government of Canada is working with Mr. Smith and his legal representatives to support his case for clemency," said John Babcock in a email.

Smith, who has been considered a model prisoner during his time in Montana, said he understands the anger of the family members of his 2 victims. But he said he has grown up since he committed his crimes.

"I think that's what so many people don't understand, is separating the crime from the person," Smith said.

"It was a drunken aberration is what it was and I think some people finally have started to realize that. It's not who I was.

"I was drunk and stupid and committed a heinous crime during that time."

(source: ctvnew.ca)


Death row survivor, author, artist coming to Rocky next week to speak

Damien Echols acknowledges the anniversary of his execution date the way others celebrate a birthday.

It's been more than 20 years since Echols was sentenced to die on May 5, 1994, for murdering three 8-year-old boys in 1993 in West Memphis, Ark., a crime for which he has maintained his innocence.

Thousands rallied to his defense - including his future wife, Lorri Davis, musician Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and actor Johnny Depp - and fought for more than a decade to free him from prison.

Several documentaries about the murders shed light on the trial, where Echols, who was 18, and 2 co-defendants were found guilty of capital murder. Echols received the death penalty and Jason Baldwin, 16, and Jessie Misskelley, 17, were sentenced to life in prison.

Echols was known as the leader of the West Memphis 3, a name the media dubbed them during the high-profile trial. A new generation of students at Rocky Mountain College, not yet born when Echols was sent to prison, read his memoir, "Life After Death," this fall as part of the Big Read project. The campus is hosting Echols next week with a free public lecture at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Fortin Center.

In a telephone interview with the Billings Gazette from his home in Harlem, N.Y., Echols, now 42, said he is excited about his 1st trip to Montana, "somewhere where I am not jostled around like I am in New York." During his talk, he will give an overview of the trial and his life in and out of prison and then open the discussion to questions.

Echols wants to tour Billings during his visit here with his wife.

"I like to look around, I like to go on foot. I want to see every coffee shop, cupcake shop and bookstore, places people would walk by and not think about."

After spending a decade in solitary confinement, Echols was overwhelmed when he was released in 2011. So much had happened during the 18 years he was on death row - cell phones, laptops, Facebook. He had to adjust to it all.

"I can't even remember the first year I was out. I was in such a deep state of trauma," Echols said.

Echols credits his spiritual practice and his relationship with Davis for helping him through the hellish years in prison and aiding him in his transition to life outside. Davis, a landscape architect, and Echols wrote each other thousands of letters when he was in prison. Their love story is told in the book "Yours for Eternity."

"Even when you are in the worst environment on the face of the earth, you have to find a reason to live, something to focus on. I think if I would have focused on the prison, I would have lost my mind," Echols said.

In a complicated legal process, Echols and his co-defendants withdrew their original not guilty pleas, entered an Alford Plea and were re-sentenced to time served. The court ruling did not exonerate them from their conviction but allowed them to be released from prison. An Alford Plea is not an admission of guilt, but an acceptance that the prosecution has enough evidence that a jury would find them guilty.

Echols has said in interviews that without the plea, he could easily have been killed in prison by a fellow inmate for $50.

Because he wore heavy metal T-shirts, had long black hair, and was "poor white trash," Echols believes he was singled out by West Memphis law enforcement and accused of the murder. He said that profiling is as much based on class as it is on race.

"If all the people on all of the bottom layers got together, it would be an unstoppable force, but they are being distracted by race," Echols said.

West Memphis is the most judgmental place imaginable, he said. He was seen as a freak and accused of worshiping the devil because of his looks.

"Almost anywhere is more accepting. You would find a place in the Middle East that is more accepting."

Echols said he knew who he was by the time he was 7, and can't understand people who are trying to find themselves.

"Read what you want, watch what you want to watch, be friends with who you want to be friends with. One thing I did learn, life is short. I'm 42 years old, and there's no time to waste on crap like what other people think."

Echols is covered in tattoos, most of which he designed himself. He is working as an artist, and views his art as an extension of his spirituality. He opened a show in Santa Monica, Calif., on Oct. 15, and has a show opening in Chicago in December, and London in April. Echols and his creative partners call their collective The Hand.

"A hand is what we use to shape the world," Echols said. "We didn't want to do art just for art's sake. Art isn't what you buy because it matches your couch."

There is DNA evidence available from the case, but Echols said the law enforcement in West Memphis continues to resist putting it in a national database to try and find the real killers. He has steadfastly maintained his innocence and tries to make up for the years he lost in prison.

"I have 20 years to make up for. I want to see things, to touch them, and taste them. You have a choice in this life whether you want to constantly sit and stew or enjoy the moment you're living in. If I sat around and thought about the people who harmed me or have beaten me or tried to kill me, I would be pretty negative."

In a recent podcast, Echols responded to the question of whether he is happy. He paused a minute, then said, "I have my own trauma, but I think I'm as happy as I could possibly be."

(source: Billings Gazette)


Temecula couple lost loved one to Night Stalker but now fights the death penalty

At first, they wanted Richard Ramirez to die. But they forgave him and now back Prop. 62 to repeal capital punishment in California.

Temecula residents Don and Patty Nelson, once staunch supporters of the death penalty after his mother Joyce Nelson was murdered by serial killer Richard Ramirez, have changed their mind and now oppose it.


What it would do: Repeal California's death penalty.

Details: It would apply retroactively to existing death sentences. Offenders now facing a death sentence would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole. It would increase the portion of life inmates' wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

Argument in favor: California's capital punishment system has failed. Prisoners should work and pay restitution, instead of sitting on death row. No innocent person should be executed.

Argument against: It's wrong to repeal the death penalty for brutal killers. Murderers should not live the rest of their lives at taxpayers' expense, with free healthcare, long after their victims are gone.

[source: California Secretary of State]


What it would do: Change procedures governing state court challenges to death sentences.

Details: It would set time limits for challenges and adopt rules to increase the number of attorneys available for handling them. Condemned inmates could be housed at any state prison. Today, they are kept only at certain state prisons.

Argument in favor: The death penalty system is bogged down by decades of appeals. It should be reformed; not repealed.

Argument against: It would not be real reform. All of its consequences aren't known and it would add layers of bureaucracy.

[source: California Secretary of State]

Devout Catholic Don Nelson was about as pro-death penalty as one can be.

Then his mom was beaten to death with a tire iron by Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, who broke into her home.

"She was 2 years away from the retirement she was looking forward to," Nelson said.

The 72-year-old Temecula man choked up in an interview Thursday, Oct. 13, as he recalled her brutal murder 31 years ago, and the day a short time later when authorities captured Ramirez, ending the trail of terror he blazed that brutally hot and fearful summer.

His wife Patty Nelson, 71, said they rejoiced when the self-professed Satan worshiper was sentenced to death for 13 murders.

"All the jurors voted for the death penalty, and we were so happy," she said. "Just because I knew that he was going to be gone. He deserved it."

Fast forward 3 decades. The Nelsons??? anger and pain remains.

"Even today I don't think there really is closure," Don Nelson said. "How do you find closure when you have to go to a grave to visit your mom?"

But the Nelsons have forgiven Ramirez and no longer believe anyone should be put to death for a crime.

The members of St. Mother of Teresa of Calcutta parish in Winchester are poised to vote in favor of Prop. 62, which would repeal California's death penalty.


California voters once again are being asked to wrestle with their consciences on capital punishment.

In 2012, voters rejected Prop. 34, which would have eliminated the death penalty. On Nov. 8, they will face that decision again in the form of Prop. 62, which seeks to replace the maximum sentence of death with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It would retroactively apply to existing death sentences.

A competing measure on the ballot, Prop. 66, would preserve the death penalty. It also aims to speed up the slow process of litigating appeals for death row prisoners.

"We need to fix it or get rid of it," said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin. "Prop. 66 is a group of common-sense reforms to the death penalty. I think it makes sense to give these reforms a try."

(source: Press-Enterprise)


On death-penalty measures, consider murder victims' voices: Letters

Consider victims' voices on death-penalty props

Re "Abolishing death penalty is right choice" (Endorsement, Oct. 13) and "Reject questionable death-penalty fixes" (Endorsement, Oct. 13):

I found your anti-death penalty editorials lacking in truth and opposed to what most Californians and Americans think about the death penalty.

It appears the 2 main reasons you're against the death penalty are the cost and the actual lack of executions.

Liberal attorneys and judges, encouraged by the ACLU, have created an endless stream of appeals for even the most heinous murderers.

Now that they've created this problem, they and you want to use it as an excuse to not fix the system. Using an excuse of poorly trained defense lawyers is really a stretch, and blaming the cost of appeals, which was created by the very people against the death penalty, itself is a ridiculous argument.

I'm not saying every accused murderer isn't entitled to a fair trial and necessary appeals, but there is no reason a convicted murderer should be languishing on death row for 25 or more years.

You blame the fact there is no accepted execution procedure. Yet again, those against the death penalty have determined that hanging, the electric chair, the gas chamber and now lethal injection are not appropriate for executing convicted murderers.

I wonder how much thought was given to the survivors of the victims of these terrible murders, people who will never see justice for those who took their loved ones' lives.

Our society has become overzealous with sympathy for the wrongdoers. Who will stand up for the victims?

- Andy Peranelli, Torrance

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Daily Breeze)

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