Editor’s note We asked readers if they thought the death penalty should be repealed in Washington state. Below are selected reader responses.
Our duty to compassion
I am discouraged by the political wrangling that has prevented a repeal thus far. It is beyond my comprehension that any member of our Legislature believes that the state should be in the position of killing any of our people.
Never mind the appalling rates of sentencing of innocent or inadequately represented people. Never mind the inequitable sentencing of people who have lived their lives impoverished, marginalized or mentally ill and unsupported by our social safety net. Never mind the fact that people of color are all too likely to be given harsher sentences than their white counterparts. Never mind the astronomical cost of capital cases, even by comparison to lifelong imprisonment.
What it comes down to is the inherent worth and dignity of each person and our country’s foundational belief that we should not impose any cruel and unusual punishment.
Judith D. Wood, Seattle
Taking another’s life is not a solution
I am against the death penalty because it sends the wrong message that there are times when taking the life of another human is the only solution. Taking the life of another human is never the right answer. That’s why it is against the law.
The death penalty is an irreversible decision, and we know from the past that mistakes are made in court. Better that 100 guilty people are spared their lives than that one was taken in error. Life in prison is no holiday.
If the death penalty were a deterrent to murder, there would be no murder in the states that embrace it. I do not want my tax money and my name as a citizen of the state of Washington to be used for this purpose. Put the measure to a vote and watch it die, rather than more humans.
Marshall Dunlap, Kent
Raise the burden of proof
There are certain crimes so vile that the death penalty is the only appropriate penalty. For these crimes, the mere presence of the perpetrator among the living is an affront to the living.
That said, society should not visit the death penalty on anyone until it has set up a system that ensures: An innocent party will never be put to death, and justice is fully equal. Neither of these conditions exist in the United States. Both conditions are achievable with societal will, but I sincerely doubt our society will ever muster up that will.
To guarantee an innocent party would never be put to death, the burden of proof would have to be elevated to beyond a shadow of doubt rather than the existing beyond a reasonable doubt. The equal justice condition could be met, partially, by a legal requirement that in any capital case, the defendant is guaranteed, at public expense, a first-rate defense from a select list of attorneys with an established reputation of thorough, skilled defense in capital cases.
James B. Paden, Blaine
Sometimes only means of justice
In all times and places, it has been known by natural law — the intuitive knowledge of right and wrong — that the death penalty is the only just punishment for some crimes.
In authoritarian governments and other societies, the death penalty was misused for punishing those who had generally offended the rulers. But its misuse does not negate its proper use as punishment for wanton murder and treason.
The death penalty is very expensive to use because the progressives in society have made every part of the sentencing process as difficult as possible to effect a death sentence. Thus the process does not just get a review of the trial but apparently unending appeals.
Using the current system, the several condemned Nazi prisoners at Nuremberg would have died of old age during our current appeal process.
Michael Boomhower, Seattle
Innocents can be punished
Yes, the death penalty needs to be repealed for one very simple moral reason: Innocent people are punished and will continue to be punished because as humans we are flawed and our systems will always be flawed. Innocent people spending years on death row or being put to death is simply an irreversible mistake that cannot be tolerated.
Penelope Cleland, Vashon
Not a deterrent
If the death penalty were a deterrent to murder, Texas would have no murders. Texas continues to lead the nation in executions. Sooner or later you would think, if it were a deterrent, there would be an end to murders.
Life without parole removes murderers from the streets and so the threat of repeated crimes is removed. It costs less than the death sentence, although that should not be the only consideration. A paramount reason for ending the death penalty is that it allows for a mistake to be corrected. If a person is executed and later found innocent, there is no way to change the outcome.
The death sentence is vengeance, nothing more. It serves no good purpose — other than possibly bringing closure to the families of the person who was murdered.
John Porter, Kirkland
Remove obstacles to punishment
Since common sense and justice demand that the punishment fits the crime, there are some crimes that are so egregious that the perpetrator does not deserve to live. That is pretty intuitive. It’s not revenge, it’s justice. It shows respect for the victim(s).
The opponents of the death penalty have piled up many obstacles to it over the years that inevitably add greatly to the cost of prosecution. Then they complain that the cost is too high, so we should abolish it. How about removing some of unnecessary and costly obstacles? They are the problem.
The death penalty should be kept. It should be made sure and swift.
Doug Hjellen, Mill Creek