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Give credit where it's due

May 12, 2008

Re "One man's life," editorial, May 7

I read with amazement in The Times' editorial that death row inmate Adam Miranda was saved by a determined big-firm attorney who allegedly devoted 20 years and millions of dollars to the cause. This piece follows the same frustrating pattern of exclusive credit for these hard-fought, landmark victories going to large law firms -- ignoring the Herculean efforts of talented criminal defense lawyers.

In this case, while the lawyer and his firm are to be commended for donating a great deal of time and financial resources on behalf of a death row inmate, it was in fact a highly experienced death penalty habeas attorney, Kerry Bensinger, a former federal public defender, who performed the lion's share of the work. He worked for the last 12 years at very low pay.

It was Bensinger who discovered the exculpatory evidence wrongfully withheld by the prosecution. He was the one who found all the witnesses, who conducted all the evidentiary hearings, who argued before several courts, and who did virtually all of the briefing. The large firm can take credit for recruiting Bensinger to work on the case.

Your editorial falsely implies that unless death row inmates get large-firm lawyers, they don't stand a chance. This is not true. These inmates need -- and are lucky when they find -- dedicated criminal defense lawyers with specialized knowledge and experience who are willing to labor for many years at low wages.

Verna Wefald

Pasadena

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While I am very gratified by the sentiments expressed in your editorial, it does leave the impression that this was a solo effort on my part. That is absolutely not the case. A team of brilliant lawyers are responsible for this victory, but none more than Kerry Bensinger, who deserves the most significant credit.

George R. Hedges

Los Angeles

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Thank you for taking a stand against the death penalty. It seems odd, however, to use the case of a man who was caught on videotape killing someone as an example of why it is unethical.

What about people who have been removed from death rows in states throughout the nation because DNA evidence has proved they were not guilty of the crimes they were convicted of?

How about a mention of the thousands who surely must have been executed for crimes they were not guilty of before the advent of DNA technology?

If you want an argument against the death penalty, there are plenty of better examples to use.

Edwin Letcher

Los Angeles

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