Archive for Friday, November 6, 1998


November 6, 1998


To the editor:

To my knowledge, no public advocate for the death penalty has said how many innocent people it is permissible to execute. That's why I believe no public advocate for the death penalty is either morally serious or intellectually honest.

Any intellectually honest person must face this reality: if the death penalty is used, then innocent people will sometimes be put to death by mistake. No matter how carefully we design and carry out the judicial process, mistakes will sometimes be made. Any morally serious person must face this choice: How many innocent people can we afford to execute?

For each morally sensitive person there must be some error rate which is unconscionably high, where it is better to let any unidentified innocents live than to execute any identified guilty. There are, however, excellent political reasons to duck these questions. If execution advocates agreed that innocent persons should never be executed, then the death penalty would be insupportable. Like any activity of any government agency, the American way of justice is very messy.

Each capital case costs a million dollars to adjudicate, yet one condemned person is later exonerated for each seven persons actually executed. Nor have the exonerated ordinarily been reprieved by the usual workings of justice; instead they have been rescued by resolute outside investigators over the loud opposition of police, prosecutors, and jurists. Unknown numbers of condemned innocents without outside help have simply died. But if execution advocates openly set a figure -- say, 5 innocent deaths per year -- they might suddenly find that majority support for capital punishment had evaporated. Hence those advocates have never told us forthrightly how many innocents they are willing to let die. Therefore I believe they are neither morally nor intellectually fit to inform our public laws.

David Burress,

912 Holiday Dr.

Pothole progress

To the editor:

Three cheers for the Mr. and Mrs. pothole crew.

Have you noticed how many potholes have been repaired?

Please take some time to thank those crew members who are out there doing the work, and to the phone answerer who takes down the locations.

Marshall Dutton,

104 JJ Coventry Manor.

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