Against death penalty |

Against death penalty

Guy Ayrault
Vail, CO, Colorado

I usually agree with the opinions that David Levine expresses in his letters. But his latest, supporting the death penalty, I cannot agree with.

In fact, I wonder if he is being facetious. Mr. Levine seems to think it would be OK to execute drug dealers, and our killing of innocent Iraqis makes it OK to kill convicted criminals.

Such positions makes no sense to me.

Personally, I oppose the death penalty in all cases. I have three reasons, any one of which is enough to convince me that the death penalty should be eliminated from our legal system.

First, the death penalty is applied in an extremely racially biased manner ˆ it always has been and there is no prospect that this will change.

Racism is alive and well in the United States. Whenever racial testing is done — in housing, jobs and any other area where testing is possible — people of color who are equally or better qualified than white people are always found to have been treated less fairly and more harshly than the white people.

In death penalty cases, there is an extreme magnification of the everyday racial biases revealed in such testing. Short of eliminating racial bias from the hearts and minds of all police, prosecutors, judges and jurors, racial bias in applying the death penalty cannot be eliminated. For this reason alone, I believe that the death penalty should never be applied.

Second, our justice system makes a lot of mistakes. Death is too final a punishment in an error-prone system.

There are powerful driving forces that lead to death penalty convictions of innocent people. The death penalty is reserved for the most heinous crimes.

Faced with the prospect of letting the person accused of a terrible crime walk free, jurors find it very difficult to apply the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Death penalty cases are also high-profile cases, career makers-breakers for police and prosecutors.

The defense in such cases is often woefully underfunded, overworked and/or incompetent, while the government pulls out all the stops to make an arrest and get a conviction.

Under public pressure to arrest and convict, police and prosecutors sometimes cannot resist the temptation to cheat, to suppress exculpatory evidence or manufacture incriminating evidence.

No one should have to die because the government feels pressured to find someone, even the wrong one, to pay the price.

Third, the existence of the death penalty is often touted as a deterrent to murder and other serious crimes. But there is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent.

My personal belief is that it is just the opposite.

An execution is a murder committed by the government. It places the official societal seal of approval on the taking of human life. It is a brutalizing influence on society.

If someone knows of people who deserve to die (and are more deserving to die than many on death row), what moral impediment stands in that person’s way?

Guy Ayrault


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