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Execution versus murder

February 28, 2009

Re "Death row futility," editorial, Feb. 23

The Times questions "the morality of state-sponsored killing." How about the morality of spontaneous, senseless killing? Or any intentional killing, for that matter?

Any human can lose his or her physical possessions or other assets and recover, but losing one's life is irrevocable.

Given that fact, it's hard to argue that the murderer should not atone with the loss of his or her life. The Times feels that capital punishment is inhumane. Personally, I think that murder is inhumane.

Allen E. Kahn

Playa del Rey

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How does The Times doubt the deterrent effect of capital punishment without first quantifying the meaning of deterrence?

If even a single murder has been deterred by the threat of capital punishment (and it's absurd to believe otherwise), does that not constitute a deterrent effect? If not, then how many murders would have to be deterred before a deterrent effect would exist?

With regard to the other reasons cited by The Times as justification for opposing capital punishment (immorality and disproportionate impact): What moral code is being referred to, and what form of punishment does not have a disproportionate effect on some groups as compared to others?

The Times might be right about the futility of capital punishment, but not for the reasons cited.

Roger Moshgat

San Diego

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Re "A new strategy on death penalty," Feb. 24

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed public review of lethal injection ignores the larger issue: Capital punishment is costly and doesn't work.

It drains resources from law enforcement and others and doesn't deter crime or prevent wrongful convictions. The Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice report found that housing a prisoner on death row costs $90,000 more a year than housing a prisoner sentenced to permanent imprisonment. If you multiply by San Quentin's 680 death row inmates, that's $60 million-plus in additional yearly costs.

California's recently signed budget bill slashes programs, adds $12.5 billion in new taxes and requires state employees to take unpaid leave to cover the economic shortfall. Schwarzenegger welcomed President Obama's economic stimulus package to states "because we in California need it."

Given California's fiscal crisis, the idea that time and resources should be spent ironing out the kinks in executions, let alone bringing the whole dinosaur back, seems ill-advised.

Diann Rust-Tierney

Washington

The writer is executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

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