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Gas Chamber Barred

October 13, 1994

In response to "Judge Bars Use of Gas Chamber in Executions," Oct. 5:

The State of California clearly has a difficult time dealing with the issue of ridding itself of certain degenerates who have shown through their past and, often, repeated behavior that they are either unwilling or unable to coexist peaceably with their neighbors. This is not entirely surprising, though. Personally, I don't believe that anyone obtains any real or lasting satisfaction from the execution of a criminal, no matter what the crime. Deep inside we would rather that the crime had not been committed at all, than a brute savage be put out of his misery.

However, the fact of the matter is that through some sense of perceived justice California has managed to retain the option of utilizing the death penalty, and there is still a "humane" method available with which to carry out that sentence. So why on earth are we arguing semantics? Whether there is only one acceptable method or a hundred, California still has the ability to kill those chosen few who have earned that fate through their deeds and in accordance with our laws.

What really strikes me is the hopelessly misplaced sense of altruism of our society. We will spend so much effort concerning ourselves with the possibility that a brutal criminal may agonize one moment longer, while we make no significant effort to foster among ourselves the real love and sense of belonging which would have prevented most crimes from occurring in the first place.



* When I read the article, my reaction was "I knew it." In 1977, when the Legislature reinstated the death penalty, I saw that the use of hydrogen cyanide, which turns into a corrosive acid when it strikes the moist membranes of the lungs, to execute death sentences would lead to an obvious constitutional challenge. I wrote a letter to then-state Sen. George Deukmejian and suggested that the use of poison gas be replaced by a method based on so modifying the gas chamber that it can be rapidly filled with pure nitrogen gas. If that method were used, the condemned murderer would die from anoxia, which, the Navy Flight Surgeon's Manual assures us, is completely painless.

Clearly neither Deukmejian nor any of the other bright boys and girls in the Legislature wanted to be concerned with such considerations. Do you suppose that our legislators might be willing to listen to some good advice now or would that be expecting too much from them for the miserable pittance that we, the people, pay them?


Los Angeles

* In response to the editorial "Why Fight for a Cruel Method?," Oct. 6:

The 387 individuals on Death Row all deserve to be on Death Row. All these individuals also deserve to die as they have been sentenced to do.

A great percentage of these Death Row inmates have committed such heinous crimes, why should we give a damn how they die?

Does anybody think even for a second that they considered how cruel and inhumane their crime was? No! Not for a second. Why should society give them any thought in how they should die?


Woodland Hills

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