[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., PENN., USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Sep 6 22:16:38 CDT 2011
Texas Toast: Rick Perry's Death Penalty Calendar
The governor has the authority to stay 3 pending executions so that the courts
can be sure of the prisoners' guilt. But will he?
Whether or not he was an innocent man, whether or not the nation's justice
system failed him, Cameron Todd Willingham is dead, as dead as Julius Caesar.
He was executed way back on February 17, 2004, and there's nothing Texas
Governor Rick Perry can do about it now. The same goes for Humberto Leal
Garcia, the Mexican national executed in Texas on July 7th despite the earnest
protestations of the Justice Department, Mexico's government and the United
Nations. Nothing Gov. Perry can do now will bring Garcia back either.
But the leading Republican candidate for president, the governor who has
authorized more executions than any other governor in the history of the United
States, more even than his infamous predecessor, has the opportunity in the
next ten days to do right by a death row inmate named Duane Edward Buck, who is
very much among the living, at least for now. Gov. Perry also soon may have to
confront the controversial case of another condemned Texas inmate, a man named
Larry Ray Swearingen, whose execution is now on hold pending a new court review
of important scientific evidence in his case. And the same goes for convicted
triple-murderer Hank Skinner, a condemned inmate who has a November execution
date despite a pending federal court case over a requested DNA test.
Political analysts seem divided over whether Gov. Perry's pronounced zeal for
capital punishment will help or hurt him on the national stage. Just this past
weekend, for example, Juana Summers at Politico wrote a piece suggesting that
the death penalty won't be a big deal for Perry (or anyone else) on the
campaign trail leading up to the 2012 election. That may or may not be true at
the surface level of political theater. But either way it doesn't mean that the
candidate's upcoming decisions on capital punishment, placed properly into the
context of Texas' long and notorious history with the death penalty, aren't a
vital topic to explore now that Labor Day has come and gone.
To understand why this is a worthwhile endeavor, notwithstanding what the
pundits and spinmeisters are saying about the public's interest in capital
punishment as a stump issue, it's useful to go back 15 years or so ago in Texas
history. There was an awful lot we all might have learned early on about the
governing styles and intellectual rigor of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and
his Legal Counsel Alberto Gonzales had folks around the country paid more
attention in the 1990s to the grossly negligent way in which the pair evaluated
clemency petitions from death row inmates.
With the benefit of hindsight, for example, one could reasonably argue that the
pair's sloppy legal reasoning, disregard for fundamental legal principles, and
contempt for honest evaluation of evidence about the Texas prisoners
foreshadowed the subsequent torture memos and other low moments of the Bush
presidency. If you don't believe me, if you think I am exaggerating the links
and patterns here, please take a few minutes to read Alan Berlow's landmark
piece, The Texas Clemency Memos, which appeared in the July/August 2003 issue
of The Atlantic Magazine.
Likewise, surely, there are important lessons to be gleaned these days by the
way in which candidate Perry handles the pending Buck, Swearingen and Skinner
cases. They are all different as a matter of fact and law. But their resolution
over the next few weeks and months will tell Gov Perry's new national audience
a great deal about where he stands on matters of law and justice, pride and
prejudice, and the intersection of law and science. The governor doesn't
believe in the science of Evolution? He doesn't believe in the science of
global warming? How about science of medicine? How about the science of DNA?
How about the science of law?
At a time when several states are moving away from the death penalty as a
costly, uncertain experiment, and with a chorus of critics still pressing the
governor to better explain his dubious handling of the aforementioned
Willingham case, Perry now will have to justify his capital decisions more
fully than he ever has before. He'll have to convince death penalty opponents
and staunch advocates of capital punishment that he is willing and able to
follow the rule of law even if it takes him to a place he doesn't necessarily
want to go; a place where some condemned prisoners aren't executed as quickly
as the Texas justice system wants them to be-- or aren't executed at all.
Duane Edward Buck
Last Wednesday, lawyers for Duane Buck filed a clemency petition with the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles seeking to have the Board and Gov. Perry halt
Buck's execution, now scheduled for September 15th. They do not claim that Buck
is innocent. They do not seek to have him released from prison. Instead, they
seek either to have his sentence commuted to life in prison without the
possibility of parole or to have his execution stayed so that the courts can
grant him a new sentencing trial. The lawyers claim that Buck, who was
convicted of murdering two people in Harris County, Texas in 1995, has been
prejudiced not once but twice by Texas' justice system.
The 1st time, they say, occurred when an expert witness at Buck's 1997 murder
trial told jurors that Buck's race -- he is black -- "increased the likelihood
of his being dangerous in the future," a patently unconstitutional bit of
testimony that should have immediately halted the trial proceedings. The 2nd
time Buck got the shaft from Texas justice, the lawyers say, is when he alone
was treated differently from a group of five other convicted murderers whose
trials were similarly tainted by the expert's racial testimony. It's an equal
protection violation on top of an equal protection violation and Gov. Perry has
an opportunity to fix it.
There is more to the Buck story. His lawyers did not raise the "future
dangerousness" issue in their initial appeal -- which was denied. But in June
2000, Texas Attorney General, John Cornyn (now the junior senator of the Lone
Star State) conceded after an investigation that Buck's case and those 5 others
had been unconstitutionally tainted by the racial testimony of the expert, a
psychologist named Walter Quijano. Over the next few years, to its credit, the
Texas AG's office repeatedly confessed its error in those cases and helped
ensure that each of the men would get a new sentencing trial, each of the men
but Buck, that is.
All five of those other men were subsequently sentenced to death in Texas
without the racially impermissible testimony. And it is quite likely that Buck
would be, too, were he afforded the opportunity to have a sentencing trial free
from the prejudicial impact of Quijano's statements. If Perry gives Buck the
chance for that new sentencing trial, he will be following Cornyn's
praiseworthy practice, following constitutional precedent, and making good on
Texas's 11-year-old promise to put to right the trials the impacted defendants.
On the other hand, if Gov. Perry does not step in, if he allows Buck to be
executed on September 15th, he will be going back on Cornyn's word, shunning
precedent, and relying upon legal technicalities that would likely have made
Bush and Gonzales blush. And that's saying something. Is America ready for a
president who makes John Cornyn look like Sister Helen Prejean when it comes to
capital punishment? Is it ready for a president who would countenance such an
evident (and conceded) violation of due process and equal protection
Larry Ray Swearingen
3 times now, Larry Swearingen has avoided execution for the 1998 murder of a
college student named Melissa Trotter. Convicted in 2000, Swearingen was a day
away from lethal injection at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville in
2007 and again in 2009 when the courts intervened. Then, 5 weeks ago, on July
28th, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stepped in and stayed his latest
execution date of August 18th. The court's move doesn't necessarily presage
victory for Swearingen -- capital procedures under federal and state law make
it virtually impossible for inmates to succeed with these sorts of claims even
when they have merit. Sooner rather than later, Gov. Perry may be asked to get
involved in this case.
The issues raised by Swearingen and his lawyers more closely resembles the
Willingham case than it does the Buck case. Defense attorneys now claim that
Swearingen could not have murdered Trotter because he was in jail at the time
of her death. They base this argument, among other things, upon the testimony
of the medical examiner in the case, who helped convict Swearingen at his 2000
trial but who has since changed her mind about her conclusions. Here's how
Jordan Smith of The Austin Chronicle recently framed the issue:
At issue is the forensic science of death and decomposition. More than a decade
after Trotter's death, a growing number of scientists - including pathologists,
forensic anthropologists, and entomologists - agree that Swearingen could not
have been responsible for Trotter's death.
Specifically at issue is histological evidence (analysis of cell tissue) that
nearly a half-dozen doctors have reviewed and that they say shows conclusively
that Trotter had not been dead for 25 days at the time she was found in January
1999. Samples of cardiac, lung, and vascular tissues harvested from Trotter at
autopsy, saved in a paraffin block and finally recovered from the Harris County
Medical Examiner's Office by Swearingen's attorney in 2009, show tissue that is
hardly decomposed at all and is most consistent with a person who has been dead
less than a week. If Trotter was dead less than a week when her body was
discovered, Swearingen was in jail when she died and could not have killed her.
A few years ago, before Swearingen's second stay of execution, Texas Monthly's
Michael Hall wrote a powerful piece about the case titled "The Science of
Murder" in which he chronicled the ways in which the Texas courts had
consistently refused to respect the growing scientific consensus about the
case. If the courts don't fully vet the matter now, a governor who does not
respect the science of Evolution or the science of global warming will be asked
with a man's life on the line to respect the science of entomology,
anthropology and pathology. The Swearingen case thus may be an interesting test
of just how far Gov. Perry is willing to go to subvert objective fact in the
name of moral policy; a test, it seems to me, that is highly relevant for
someone seeking national office as commander in chief.
There is science -- and then there is the science of DNA testing, which has
caused over the past 20 years nothing short of a revolution in the criminal
justice system. Convicted of murdering his girlfriend and her two children in
1995, Hank Skinner and his attorneys have been trying for over 10 years now to
get certain evidence against him tested for DNA to see if it would help
exonerate him. The defense has long argued that he was too whacked out on drugs
and alcohol to have committed the heinous crime. He claims his girlfriend's
uncle is the culprit.
Texas has steadfastly refused to authorize the DNA tests Skinner has sought
even as state lawmakers have approved measures making it easier for other
prisoners to seek and receive the results of such tests. In 2009, Skinner sued
the state in federal court. This past spring, the United States Supreme Court,
by a 6-3 vote, agreed that he could continue to pursue his efforts to seek the
testing. The opinion in Skinner v. Switzer indicates that the Court believes
that the potential harm that could come from refusing to allow Skinner to have
the evidence tested -- i.e., the possibility that Texas could soon execute an
innocent man-- far outweighs any benefit Texas would gain from refusing to do
Even though Skinner's federal case now still is pending, even though the
Supreme Court's mandate has yet to be fully enforced, Texas went to court in
late July seeking a new execution date. And it got one. Skinner now is
scheduled to be executed on November 9th. His lawyers believe they will get a
ruling from the federal trial judge between now and then but, just in case,
they will today (Tuesday) seek another court-ordered stay of the execution and
to have the testing done pursuant to the new Texas statute, SB 122, which went
into effect just last week. If that fails, they'll be at Gov. Perry's door,
asking him to press local prosecutors for the testing Skinner wants, for a stay
of execution until the federal case is completely over, or both.
Good luck with that. When it comes to the post-conviction DNA testing of
capital defendants, the governor's record is dubious, even by Texas standards.
For example, in 2009, as the world-renowned Willingham case was about to be
evaluated by the state's Forensic Science Commission, Gov. Perry replaced three
Commission members in a move widely perceived as political ploy to avoid an
embarrassing report before the 2010 gubernatorial election. The political ally
the governor chose to take over the Commission, a prosecutor named John
Bradley, not only successfully delayed and denuded the Willingham report but
now is under fire from the folks at the Innocence Project for blocking DNA
evidence that ultimately may exonerate another death row inmate, a man named
Michael Morton. It gets late early in Texas, doesn't it?
Gov. Perry has the authority to ask prosecutors in the Skinner case to
authorize the DNA testing. He has the power to grant Skinner -- and Buck-- a
reprieve from their scheduled execution dates so that the serious questions
surrounding their respective cases can be fully fleshed out by the courts. In
all 3 of these pending cases, and dozens more, he has the power to ensure that
the state's death penalty is carried out both fairly and accurately. Whether he
fulfills these obligations, which both of Texas's sitting Republican senators
publicly have endorsed, shouldn't just matter to the condemned men involved and
the victims of their alleged crimes. It should matter to everyone who cares
about who they vote for next November.
(source: The Atlantic)
GEORGIA----new execution date for Troy Davis
Death warrant signed for Troy Anthony Davis
A Chatham County judge on Tuesday signed a death warrant for Troy Anthony
Davis, who was convicted of killing a Savannah police officer in 1989.
The warrant sets the execution between Sept. 21 and Sept. 28. The state
Department of Corrections will set the actual date. Davis has been on death row
for 19 years.
Davis' appeals are exhausted. He is expected to once again ask the Georgia
Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant him clemency. The board has previously
denied that request.
Davis, 41, was convicted of killing off-duty police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail
21 years ago as MacPhail ran to the aid of a homeless man being pistol-whipped
outside a Burger King.
The case has attracted international attention because a number of key
prosecution witnesses either recanted or backed off their trial testimony.
Other witnesses have come forward and said another man at the scene told them
he was the actual killer.
In August, a federal judge emphatically rejected Davis' claims that he was
wrongly convicted. In a 172-page order, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore
Jr. said Davis failed to prove his innocence during an extraordinary hearing in
June ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
MacPhail, 27 and a father of 2, was gunned down before he could draw his
weapon. After the killing, Sylvester "Redd" Coles went to the police with his
lawyer and told them he and Davis were at the scene. At trial, he testified he
was fleeing the scene when shots were fired, leaving Davis as the culprit.
Coles denied being the triggerman.
At the June hearing, Davis' lawyers wanted to call witnesses who had given
sworn statements that Coles had told them after the trial he was the actual
killer. But Moore did not allow these witnesses to testify because Davis'
lawyers did not subpoena Coles to testify. If they had, the judge said, he
could have tested the validity of Coles' alleged confessions.
If Coles had in fact confessed to these witnesses, Moore suggested there could
be an explanation --"he believed that his reputation as a dangerous individual
would be enhanced if he took credit for murdering Officer MacPhail." Davis
failed to prove the alleged confessions were truthful, Moore noted.
Of the 7 witnesses Davis' legal team say recanted their trial testimony, "only
one is a meaningful, credible recantation." The value of this recantation --
given by a jailhouse snitch who testified Davis told him he killed MacPhail --
is diminished because it was already clear the witness testified falsely at
trial, the judge said.
Moore answered one question posed to him by the U.S. Supreme Court. He found
that executing an innocent person would violate the Eighth Amendment's ban
against cruel and unusual punishment.
"However, Mr. Davis is not innocent," the U.S. district judge wrote in August.
Chatham County Superior Court Judge Penny Freesemann signed the death warrant
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGES GEORGIA BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLES TO COMMUTE
TROY DAVIS DEATH SENTENCE
( Atlanta ) – Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today urged the Georgia Board
of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency to death-row inmate Troy Anthony
Davis, whose execution date will be scheduled between September 21st and
September 28th. Georgia usually tries to carry out executions on the earliest
date of a warrant. The human rights organization maintains that proceeding with
the execution would be unconscionable, especially as doubts about Davis’ guilt
have never been erased.
“The Board stayed Davis’ execution in 2007, stating that capital punishment was
not an option when doubts about guilt remained,” said Larry Cox, executive
director for AIUSA. “Since then 2 more execution dates have come and gone, and
there is still little clarity, much less proof, that Davis committed any crime.
Amnesty International respectfully asks the Board to commute Davis’ sentence to
life and prevent Georgia from making a catastrophic mistake.”
Since the launch of its February 2007 report, Where Is the Justice for Me? The
Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia, Amnesty International has
campaigned intensively for clemency for Davis. On April 12th Amnesty
International issued an “Urgent Action” to its membership on his behalf. More
than 300,000 signatures have been gathered for Davis since the Georgia Board of
Pardons and Paroles last considered clemency. Following Davis’ evidentiary
hearing last summer, former Congressman Bob Barr and former FBI director
William Sessions renewed their support for the inmate, and Nobel laureates
President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jose Ramos Horta have
recently appealed to the board for clemency.
“It is because of cases like Troy Davis’ that support for the death penalty
has dropped significantly in this country,” said Laura Moye, director of
AIUSA’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign. “The possibility of human error is
far too high, and the chances of executing the innocent are far too real.”
Since 2007 New Mexico, New Jersey and Illinois have abolished the death
penalty. When signing the abolitionist bills into law the three state governors
all pointed to the risk of irrevocable error as a reason to support abolition.
In the 20-plus years that Davis has been on death row, more than 90 prisoners
have been released from death rows across the country on grounds of innocence.
Each had been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist
organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in
more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The
organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public
and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.
# # #
For more information please visit www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis.
(source: Amnesty International USA)
Defense wants review of DA's decision to seek death penalty in Forrest case
Defense attorneys for a man accused of killing former world boxing champion
Vernon Forrest on Tuesday said the death penalty is being sought in the case
because of the victim's high-profile status.
Lawyers for Charman Sinkfield asked a judge to allow them to review all murder
cases in Fulton County since Paul Howard became district attorney in 1996 in an
effort to show Howard has not sought the death penalty in similar cases.
Howard is seeking death against Sinkfield "simply because of the status of the
victim," defense attorney Dwight Thomas said. "The status of the victim is not
a reason for seeking the death penalty."
Forrest, 38, was shot and killed July 25, 2009. Howard initially sought the
death penalty against all three men charged in Forrest's killing, but he is now
seeking death only against Sinkfield, whom police say shot Forrest 5 times in
the back and twice in the leg.
The DA's notice to seek death against Sinkfield says Forrest was killed during
an armed robbery, which makes a murder case eligible for capital punishment
under Georgia law. The defendants are accused of taking Forrest's gold
championship ring and diamond Rolex watch.
When announcing he was seeking the death penalty, Howard said Forrest was
killed "in such a senseless and brutal way," including being shot in the back
while he was on the ground.
Sinkfield's lawyers asked Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey to convene a
pretrial evidentiary hearing to examine other murder cases and their sentencing
outcomes in Fulton County.
Dempsey said he did not intend to allow the defense to go on a "fishing
expedition," but he also said, "They ought to be entitled to try and make the
case, if one's there."
Dempsey indicated he may ask the district attorney's office to turn over a list
of all of its murder cases under Howard. He noted that another Fulton judge had
already instructed the DA's office to do that in a different death-penalty
In a series published in 2007, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that
Georgia law had fallen short of ensuring a predictable and even-handed
application of the death penalty. The newspaper researched 2,328 murder
convictions over a decade and found capital sentences were being imposed
Murder-armed robbery cases, such as Forrest's, are the most prevalent capital
crimes in Georgia. They were no exception to the scatter-shot approach employed
by district attorneys when deciding to seek the death penalty, the AJC found.
Last month, a Fulton jury convicted DeMario Ware of felony murder in Forrest's
killing. Ware was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The third
defendant, Jquante Crews, has yet to go to trial.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Prosecution to seek death penalty in West Chester slaying
Prosecution authorities will seek the death penalty against a man accused of
robbing and killing an 86-year-old West Chester man in his borough apartment.
The announcement was made Tuesday by Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert
Miller, who is leading the prosecution of Jorge Davila, the man charged with
1st-degree murder in the July 25 death of Augusto “Wito” Rivera of South
Miller said that his office had cited 2 aggravating circumstances in the case
against Davila as the basis for the decision to seek the death penalty.
“First, the nature of this crime requires it,” Miller told the Daily Local
News. “The murder was committed in the case of a felony, not only in order to
carry out the felony – robbery – but also to conceal it.”
West Chester police have said that Rivera carried large sums of money with him
and used that money to loan to people in the neighborhood. However, when his
body was discovered his pants pockets were empty and his wallet was missing.
In addition to the presence of a felony in the case, Miller said that an
investigation by his office, as well as a statement by Davila himself,
indicated that he had been previously convicted of murder, although the
circumstances surrounding it were unclear. Miller said that the murder is
alleged to have occurred outside Pennsylvania, and that Davila told West
Chester police while being interrogated about Rivera’s demise that “he had shot
a man in the head.”
Miller said that Davila and his attorney would be notified of the decision to
seek the death penalty when he is formally arraigned next week. He was to have
been arraigned on Sept. 1, but his attorney was reportedly unavailable, Miller
Davila, 39, is being held without bail at Chester County Prison following his
Aug. 2 arrest in Philadelphia. Rivera was found by police conducting a
well-being check about 4:40 p.m. July 25 in his home in the Apartments for
Modern Living complex in the 200 block of South Matlack Street.
During testimony at Davila’s preliminary hearing last month, West Chester
Police Detective Stan Billie, who processed the crime scene, said Rivera had
been "hog-tied" with a bag tied around his head. He was found lying face down
tied with shoelaces around the wrists, shoelaces around the neck and shoelaces
tied together from the victim's neck to ankles," Billie said. An autopsy
determined he died of strangulation.
Police allege — and say that multiple witnesses can confirm — that Davila had
borrowed $400 from Rivera in July. He then reportedly asked Rivera for a second
loan the day before police discovered Rivera’s body, before paying the first
loan back. Detective Robert Kuehn testified that witnesses said, “Mr. Rivera
was not giving him the money."
After the killing, police allege that Davila went to Philadelphia where he
purchased large amounts of crack cocaine and was seen with a large amount of
cash. The day before police found Rivera's body, Davila was photographed by
surveillance cameras at Rivera's apartment complex, according to court records.
Davila was apprehended Aug. 2 in the Kensington area of Philadelphia.
Rivera’s case is 1 of 2 death penalty cases that the DA's office is pursuing,
out of about 9 open criminal homicides. The other involves Laquanta Chapman, a
Coatesville man accused of the murder and dismemberment of a city teenager,
State law requires that prosecutors inform defendants at the time of their
arraignment of the intention to apply the death penalty in first-degree murder
cases. On Sep. 15, when Davila is arraigned, the prosecution may also file its
intentions in the case of a northeastern Pennsylvania couple, Melanie Ann Ray
and Chandler Gordon Clark, who are alleged to have conspired together to kill a
Delaware County man, Andre J. Dupuis, in order to steal his pickup truck.
A hearing on pre-trial motions in Chapman’s case is scheduled for Wednesday
before Judge William Mahon.
(source: The Daily Local)
Convicted Cop Killer Sentenced To 190 More Years
The man who killed three Pittsburgh police officers was back in court on
Tuesday for his formal sentencing.
The judge imposed 3 death sentences against Richard Poplawski, 24, who was
convicted in the deaths of officers Paul Sciullo II, 36, Stephen Mayhle, 29,
and Eric Kelly, 41.
The judge also sentenced Poplawski to 190 additional years in prison for the
shots he fired at police officers.
Channel 11 News reporter Alan Jennings asked Poplawski if he had anything to
say prior to the hearing. Poplawski replied, “This is far from over. I’ll be
Jennings reported that the judge sentenced Poplawski to 190 years for attempted
murder to make sure he never leaves jail, even if he would win his death
In court on Tuesday, prosecutors played a never-before-seen video of Poplawski
in jail three months after the murders.
In the video, Poplawski was completely naked and angry. The CERT team was
called in to restrain him and prosecutors said he yelled, "I killed 3
Pittsburgh police officers, and I'd do it again.”
Prosecutors played the video to show Poplawski’s lack of remorse, according to
reporter Cara Sapida.
Also on Tuesday, prosecutors said Poplawksi remained defiant and continued to
express his hatred for police while walking out of the courtroom.
"Upon leaving the courtroom he [Poplawski] saw Officer Fryberger, who was the
sniper that disabled his AK-47, and called him a hack," said Deputy District
Attorney Mark Tranquilli.
Following Poplawski’s June trial, a jury imposed the death penalty against
Poplawski, prompting dozens of officers who gathered in a courthouse hallway to
erupt in applause and tears as prosecutors and the victims' relatives emerged
from the courtroom.
Poplawski will join 211 other Pennsylvania inmates on death row. But his
lawyers already plan to appeal.
The jury convicted Poplawski of three counts of first-degree murder and 25
lesser crimes for shooting the officers on April 4, 2009, after Poplawski's
mother called 911 when an argument escalated about his puppies urinating on the
floor at her Stanton Heights home.
Poplawski surrendered more than three hours later, largely because he was
bleeding from a leg wound inflicted during an exchange of fire with one of the
officers, but not before peppering SWAT team officers with fire from his
12-gauge shotgun, .357 Magnum and AK-47 assault rifle.
(source: WPXI News)
Morality, effectiveness of death penalty debated
Pause to reflect
What a beautiful, soulful guest commentary written by Karil Klingbeil on the
death penalty [“Death penalty also costly to families,” Opinion, Sept. 5]. I
agree with all he says and have been opposed to the death penalty for many
years but I have never suffered as he has with the murder of his sister.
Thank you for publishing this piece. I hope it gives readers pause to reflect.
— Marian Malonson, Hansville
De Tocqueville’s conclusion
Two recent guest editorials have argued against the death penalty. An early
conclusion from Alexis De Tocqueville (“Democracy in America, “Vol. 1, Ch. VI)
applies: “In the Middle Ages, when it was very difficult to reach offenders,
the judges inflicted frightful punishments on the few who were arrested; but
this did not eliminate the number of crimes. It has since been discovered that
when justice is more certain and more mild, it is more efficacious.”
Overall, is the modern-day legal system a middle case and the worst of both? We
are capable of apprehending and (eventually) convicting and executing capital
offenders, but we are also too often responsible in lesser cases for actually
spawning such offenders, through a culture of overly circumstantial and
procedural defenses, years of revolving-door court appeals, and plea-bargain
penalties — where accountability for lesser offenses against society is
anything but swift and certain.
— Peter Beaulieu, Shoreline
Facts don’t support capital punishment
Reagan Dunn’s logical conclusion is not supported by the apparent facts [“Death
penalty shouldn’t be victim of state and local budget woes,” Opinion, Sept. 3].
In his first paragraph, Dunn implies that because the rule of law separates a
civil society from lawlessness, it is therefore essential that we as a society
have the death penalty as the ultimate punishment. This supposition has the
feel of an ideological position hardened by prosecutor training and politics,
rather than fact-based.
I have yet to see conclusive evidence that demonstrates the efficacy of capital
punishment in enhancing the general public safety. Quite the contrary, there is
some evidence that the death penalty adjudicated unfairly or ineptly, can
compromise respect for the law, thereby adversely impacting public safety.
The goal is to get the perpetrator off the street. Let’s be clear, the death
penalty is a political/moral issue, and not one of crime prevention in civil
Further, all but several nations, some arguably more civilized than we, have
abolished the ultimate punishment. Could it be that those nations have dared to
understand those deepest motives that lie at the heart of this issue, and have
chosen the high road?
— Mike Pruitt, Yakima
Archaic, degrading practice
I appreciate Reagan Dunn’s belief that the death penalty shouldn’t be held
hostage to budgetary conditions. But those of us who value each and every life
would argue that we can attain a win-win situation and save lives and money by
simply doing away with this archaic and degrading custom.
The important reasons for this stance are not financial. The death penalty is a
barbaric practice that places society in the same indefensible position as the
guilty parties. It fits the definition of first-degree murder because it’s
“Planned in advance with malice aforethought.”
It’s basically unfair because of it’s extreme racial bias on one hand and the
arbitrary condition of different judges handing down different sentences to
different defendants for the same crime on the other.
And finally, the deterrent argument falls on it’s face because societies with
the death penalty have far greater rates of murder than those without, because
the death penalty offers the lesson that we can solve our problems with
violence. Does this really serve to make our society safer? And oh yes, it
costs too much!
So Councilman Dunn, thanks for standing by moral imperatives. However, a
genuine morality would have us practicing compassionate conservatism by saving
our money and our souls.
— Percy Hilo, Seattle
Revenge is simple
I must take issue with Reagan Dunn’s comments on capital punishment. There are
many things in life that “literally turn my stomach” — the back page of the
Seattle Weekly, the tea party, the plight of the homeless living on our city’s
streets, war, and yes, the murders to which Dunn refers.
I would also add capital punishment to my list. Few of us will know the horror
of having a loved one murdered, but many of us know, or will know, the
heartbreak of loving someone who is mentally ill. Revenge is simple. Life is
— Christine Livingston, Seattle
(source: Letters to the Editor, Seattle Times)
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