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A dim view of executions

January 07, 2007

Re "Death's strange spell," Opinion, Jan. 3

As Susan Moeller points out, people are titillated by photographs of and stories about the more violent forms of judicial executions.

In truth, these images and articles are a form of pornography, but one that newspapers may print with little of the horror and criticism that would result if they published sexual pornography. Both types of porn allow the public to experience the taboo at a safe distance.

In the past, when the United States had many executions and a variety of means for carrying them out, newspapers often ran stories about the gallows, gas chamber, firing squad and electric chair -- and the occasional guillotining from France.

For better or worse, the illusion of gentleness of lethal injections has made executions far less of a taboo experience for the public. But as Albert Camus wrote in 1957 in "Reflections on the Guillotine," those who actually witness an execution know it for the horror it is.

DAVID DEKOK

Harrisburg, Pa.

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In 1862, several Minnesota tribes of Native Americans revolted against the United States. Gen. John Pope was sent to quell the uprising and recommended, to then-President Lincoln, that 300 warriors be executed by hanging. Lincoln, needing the vote in Minnesota, selected 38 individuals who were promptly hanged. Lincoln carried Minnesota in the next election and holds the record for the only president to order a mass hanging.

ROBERT PISAPIA

Westlake Village

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Re "Panel to look into taunts at execution," Jan. 3

It is good to see that the new Iraqi government has learned its lessons well from the Bush administration.

While the country is falling apart, I see the Iraqi government is going to go after the leaker of the cellphone video of the Saddam Hussein hanging. I think the Bush equivalency is the ban imposed on any photos of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq.

RICHARD HORMEL

Los Angeles

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