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Supreme Court Upholds Stay of Execution for Harris

April 08, 1990

It's time to repeal the death penalty--not because it's unjust or immoral but because it's unworkable.

Under our system of justice, murderers sentenced to die have become the most protected of felons, guaranteed years of review, appeals and delays at public expense. Their plight attracts a multitude of apologists and supporters, including those opposed to capital punishment under any circumstances. If murderers are members of a minority, they can be portrayed as victims of prejudice and their defense often becomes a political obligation. If not, their defenders can blame their parents, associates or society in general for their antisocial conduct.

Murder is an abnormal act. It's, therefore, not surprising that defense attorneys will uncover histories of deviant behavior in their clients' past. If this behavior can be traced to physical, mental or emotional impairment, the defense can move for exoneration on the grounds that the defendants, through no fault of their own, fail to recognize constraints governing the conduct of normal people.

According to polls, most of us favor the death penalty and abhor the media circus which has made an international celebrity out of a brutal and amoral killer like Harris. But we must recognize the limitations of our legal system and society that permit only one murderer out of a hundred to be executed. Why continue a law with that kind of track record which also inspires widespread frustration and cynicism, not to mention the expenditure of millions?

It's time to face up to reality.

BRYCE F. DENNO

Coronado

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