In response to your editorial ("Unshackle the High Court," Oct. 5) about the California Supreme Court, the cure for the court's ills, and the only cure, is to abolish the death penalty.
The present death penalty law was enacted by the voters in 1978, a decade ago. As a direct result of that initiative measure the California Supreme Court has degenerated from one of the most esteemed appellate courts in the country to one of the least; California taxpayers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for prosecution, defense and judicial proceedings in capital cases; important civil issues have gone unresolved, and not a single criminal defendant has been executed.
Consider these facts: The United States is the only Western industrialized nation which retains the death penalty. All the others, as well as 16 of our states, have had the death penalty and have wisely abolished it. In those states which retain it, the death penalty applies only to those criminals who, by definition, are least likely to be deterred by it. The distinctions in the death penalty law are inane: For example, one who murders "by means of" lying in wait faces a prison term and likely parole; one who murders "while" lying in wait faces a maximum punishment of death. The difference between life and death ought not to turn on such distinctions, and this is just one of many such absurdities in the law.
The California death penalty law is a monument to asininity
CHARLES T. BUMER