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Hard to Be Objective About the Death Penalty

February 09, 1985

This letter is in response to your editorial (Jan. 25). The editorial had to do with the death penalty, which you refer to as a "Grisly Relic of History."

A few short weeks ago my sister and brother-in-law returned to their home in Altadena after a very early dinner. They walked in a side door and were immediately confronted by two or more people who were in the process of ransacking and burglarizing their home.

The sequence of events and exactly what happened during the next hour or so are a matter of conjecture. It wasn't until the following morning, after the sheriffs were alerted and called to the scene, that we found out what had taken place and how this tragedy ended.

My sister and brother-in-law were bound hand and foot and to each other and were found in a sitting position on the living room sofa. Both were hooded with pillow cases and both had been savagely beaten to death with one or more instruments.

You refer to the death penalty as grisly. I think you cheapen and demean the word when you use it in this context. I would ask that you read the coroner's obituary reports on the two victims in this crime; then you will be able to use the word grisly properly.

You will be interested to know that the two main suspects in this crime were apprehended. Both were on parole. One is presently in the county jail; the other shot himself to death as he was about to be captured by the sheriffs. It also turns out that the dead suspect was a prime suspect in two other recent murders in this area.

You can quote James Q. Wilson of Harvard, and others who believe as he does that the death penalty is not a deterrent against murder, but I, and the majority of the rest of us remain firmly convinced that the death penalty is a deterrent.

Had these two murderers been executed, or at least kept confined without the possibility of parole, my sister and brother-in-law would be alive today. What further evidence do you need?

It is so easy to be objective when you are not directly involved. Do you think that you would be able to maintain this level of objectivity if the bloody victims of this crime were close members of your own family?

BOB CHITRIN

Van Nuys

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