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Letters: To execute or not to execute?

November 02, 2012

Re "Debating Proposition 34," opinion, Oct. 28

Jimmy Carter has the chutzpah to write "The process for administering the death penalty in the United States is broken beyond repair."

The biggest problem with California's capital punishment law from 1987 to the present has been the judges appointed to the federal district courts and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by none other than Carter. Once again, we are told the system is broken — by one of the key people who broke it.

Fortunately, the "beyond repair" part is wrong. The U.S. Supreme Court has finally cracked down on the lower courts and limited their ability to wrongly overturn valid capital judgments. We have 14 cases ready to go as soon as Gov. Jerry Brown does his duty and adopts the modern method of lethal injection already in use in other states.

Kent Scheidegger

Sacramento

The writer is the legal director at the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

James A. Ardaiz's cavalier attitude about the execution of an innocent person is disturbing. Since 1973, 141 people have been exonerated from death rows across the U.S. Perhaps this quote from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will give him pause: "If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed."

The National Research Council found in April that capital punishment has had no demonstrable effect on murder rates over the last 30 years. And yet 46% of murders in California go unsolved because of scarce resources. Proposition 34 addresses this.

Taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion since 1978 to execute 13 men but got nothing in return. Let's take the money off death row and use it to help the families of murder victims.

Gil Garcetti

Los Angeles

The writer was district attorney of Los Angeles County from 1992 to 2000.

That ending the death penalty would save money is utterly irrelevant to the principle of crime and punishment.

There are more than 700 inmates on death row in California. Proposition 34 would convert their sentences to life in prison without parole. Douglas Stankewitz has already spent more than three decades on death row, and he is only 54. Is justice served by using scarce public resources to sustain murderers for life?

Killing, unless for self-defense, is an act of in-

humanity. Death fits the crime. We need to revamp capital punishment in California, but leave its principle alone.

Teresa C. Yu

Rancho Palos Verdes

The issue isn't whether the death penalty deters murder, it's whether it deters murder better than life in prison without parole. It's hard to imagine a potential murderer calculating that the death penalty is too much to risk but life imprisonment is not.

Ardaiz wrote that we should "shore up weaknesses in the system." But it's impossible to make the criminal justice system the one field of human endeavor absolutely free of error.

If we believe that taking an innocent life is unacceptable, then we cannot risk the virtual certainty that we will be guilty of that ourselves if we keep the executioner's chamber open.

Robert Silberg

Los Angeles

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