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Support for Death Penalty

September 04, 1985

I read with sorrow and horror The Times Poll report that "most Californians support the death penalty, even if innocent persons," "or if their own mothers ended up on Death Row."

The campaign to remove Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and two other Supreme Court members appears to be so successful that for a huge majority of my fellow citizens there is no limit to this emotional issue.

It seems to me that the motives that produce such passionate fervor to kill the killers are the following: (1) fear; (2) revenge; (3) the failure of alternative means of protection; (4) the continuing and rising cost of our inadequate prisons; (5) widespread ignorance, due to the failure of our schools to produce an informed electorate; (6) impatience with the law's delays, and loopholes.

Have we really progressed beyond the lynch mobs of 100 years ago? And, incidentally, during that period how many millionaires have sat on Death Row?

Most people in our society are not informed of the results of many serious studies of the problem by qualified researchers. When considered dispassionately (if that is possible in the existing climate of debate), a careful analysis of the history of capital punishment leads to these unpopular conclusions:

1--A society cannot reduce the number of murders by indulging in the collective killing of killers.

2--Other "civilized" Western nations have found other means of handling the problem to be more effective, such as speedy trials, limiting appeals, and rehabilitation of offenders.

Removal of the targeted justices from the Supreme Court won't do the job. Rose Bird is only one of seven judges. The hated decisions are made by at least a majority of them. Their rulings are supported by reasonsed applications of the law. Our Constitution is the law of the land, and of the State of California.

Capital cases are very few compared with the multitude of problems decided every year by a majority of our court.

If Rose Bird is kicked out, murders will not be eliminated. What could occur would be a great loss of prestige that California now enjoys because we lead the country in the quality of the law that has been enunciated by our court for many, many years.

JOSEPH ALEXANDER

Laguna Hills

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