Letters to the Editor

Unfair penalty

October 25, 2007


To the editor:

Every year it becomes more and more obvious that the death penalty is unjust and unfair. The taking of a person's life for the sin of murder is most often an act of vengeance rather than justice.

American is one of the few civilized nations in the world to support such an extreme measure. According to Amnesty International, four nations last year accounted for 94 percent of the worldwide executions: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States, which had 60. Currently, 122 nations have abolished the death penalty.

We shall never know how many innocent prisoners have been executed in the past. We do know that in the United States, more than 123 prisoners have been found innocent and released, although all had previously been found "guilty beyond reasonable doubt."

In 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the verdict of a death row inmate, Joseph Amerine, after he had been imprisoned for 18 years. After 26 years, another prisoner, Luis Diaz, 67, of Florida, serving a life term, was released. He was fortunate not to have been previously executed. Minority races, as you might guess, are most often found guilty.

Yes, I oppose the death penalty upon the basis of injustice and lack of fairness for those tried. It falls most upon the poor, the ignorant and the underprivileged.

Many churches now also oppose the death penalty for religious reasons as well. Life imprisonment is a fairer, more humane verdict, in my opinion. I hope Kansas will once again abolish the death penalty.

Harold Piehler,



Ragingbear 10 years, 7 months ago

Somebody neglected to state what other countries do to people we would sentence to death. Such as locking them up in a cell and letting them starve to death, slowly. Takes years sometimes. Yeah, really humane. How about impalement. In one hole, out the other, then stood up in the ground. Takes up to a few hours to die. Let your imagination do the rest. Amputation of all 4 body parts. Yep. Humane. Burning, torture, "exilement" onto some arctic island without any clothing. How about tying wet rawhide around somebody's neck and tossing them out into the desert? These are all methods of dealing "humanely" with people the US puts to death, as well as many others that aren't even breaking laws in the US. Then there is always the "Whoops. I thought his hand was a gun" maneuvers played by LA cops.

Keep the death penalty, fix the system. They are two different things.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

As long as people like you continue to vote for people like BushCo, RT, there will be endless war.

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

Capital punishment is barbaric.

There is absolutely no moral justification for the cold-blooded killing of a human being.

Every person is capable of redemption and every person deserves that chance. When God decides that the person's time is up then so be it, but when we do it - absent the use of necessary force to protect our life or that of another - such killing is simply murder.

Grundoon Luna 10 years, 7 months ago

I am against the death penalty. It is unfairly applied which potentially results in the execution of innocents since we have the best justice system money can buy and the poor can't buy expert testimony like OJ. It's also very, very expensive!!! Life puts 'em away a lot cheaper and with the money saved from appeals in capital trials you could run more prisons. Prisons have brought jobs to many a rural area.

Though I like the idea of Lisa Montgomery suffering a horrible death that's not what she's going to get from the legal system. So she might as well be locked up for good. Hopefully with a nasty new "boyfirend" as a cell mate, you know, because we are concerned for her comfort.

krisell 10 years, 7 months ago

I wrote my term paper in high school about the death penalty. I haven't kept up with the statistics, but back in 1998, the statistics showed that states that used the death penalty did not have lower crime rates than the states that didn't use the death penalty. If capital punishment is meant to be a deterrent (and if it's not, then it's just vengeance) I don't think it's getting the job done. There are also studies being done right now to investigate whether the methods we use for killing condemned criminals are indeed humane. For instance, numerous people who have been killed in the electric chair (especially in Florida) have had their heads catch fire, or it has taken serveral jolts to actually kill them. Studies suggest that while lethal injection looks to be a peaceful and humane way to be put to death, brain waves may show that these people are actually just paralyzed and cannot communicate that they are in pain. My views on capital punishment can be summed up by one of my favorite bumper stickers: Why do we kill people who kill people to prove that killing people is wrong?

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 7 months ago

I'm with the big dude in the sky on this one -- Thou shalt not kill.

Speakout 10 years, 7 months ago

No RT, But Only BUSH preemtorily attacked a sovereign nation who had no intention of attacking us. That is indeed the biggest crime. He killed thousands of innocent people, destroyed a complete civilization and infrastructure and launched an occupation that has claimed more and more lives than our death penalty. Who here is the criminal? How can we support such an act? By not speaking out against this, we condone it. We are just as guilty as Bush for launching such a travisty.

storm 10 years, 7 months ago

Right on. Let's drop the punishments for theft, rape etc...because the court system is unjust and unreliable, and it's all vengence anyway.

mom_of_three 10 years, 7 months ago

convicted murders who are put to death by lethal injection are in pain? Awwh, I don't feel sorry for them one bit.
No, the death penalty isn't a deterant, but don't have it if you aren't going to use it. Did Texas ever pass their new death penalty law, that if you have so many credible witnesses to a crime, then you don't get to spend years fighting with appeals?

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

"Let's drop the punishments for theft, rape etc:because the court system is unjust and unreliable, and it's all vengence anyway."

Well there is a fundamental difference, you know. In this case of wrongul imprisonment, the victim can be let go and resitution can be made. Maybe the victim will never be made whole, but at least something can be done. On the other hand, once you deliberately kill someone, there ain't a whole lot one can do to make that better.

And the appellate remedies for those convicted for capital crimes and sentenced to be murdered by the state have been steadily eroding, particularly in 1996. The State of Missouri even argued that Joe Amrine should be killed in cold blood EVEN in the face of evidence of actual innocence. Why? Because he had a "fair trial" and now it was done and it did not matter what the evidence was. Frighteningly enough, a plain reading of the law could support that position. What a joke. Thankfully, the MO Supreme Court did not agree.

Years after his release, they figuured out he was framed by corrupt prison officials and guards. One of the main guys killed himself rather than take responsibility.

Killing anyone without the threat of imminent danger is wrong. Period. Those who advocate for the cold blooded killing of a human being are accessories to a wrongful killing.

storm 10 years, 7 months ago

baille - with your post,hopefully people will now understand how unjust and unreliable the court system is...on the basis of that, Ms Montgomery should go ahead and live... I seriously doubt anyone advocating for her death would be an accessory to a wrongful killing, though.

krisell 10 years, 7 months ago

"convicted murders who are put to death by lethal injection are in pain? Awwh, I don't feel sorry for them one bit. "

Um, it's called the Constitution . . . you know, cruel and unusual punishment? No one ever said we have to feel sorry for them, but that doesn't change the fact that if it's true they are in pain, it's highly unconstitutional.

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

" I seriously doubt anyone advocating for her death would be an accessory to a wrongful killing, though."

Not legally, no. But in the end we all must answer to a higher authority.

Or not. Now there is a discussion I don't want to get sucked into. :)

Cai 10 years, 7 months ago

I'm all for abandoning the death penalty. But I'm not paying for anyone to be in prison for life.

You pay for it - I'll support the abolishment of the penalty, and then maybe you'll be up for fixing the system too.

badger 10 years, 7 months ago

If they do away with the death penalty, that puts those inmates in general population for life with no chance of parole, right?

Say you commit a series of brutal murders at 18. I guess I have to ask how being locked in a 10 x 10 room with another person for 50 or 60 years, denied such things as privacy and competent medical care, allowed maybe one hour of sunshine and fresh air a day, being regularly beaten by guards or fellow inmates and living in fear of rape, having a higher risk of HIV infection than any other population, and living with the constant threat of solitary confinement for anything deemed a sufficient infraction based on arbitrary standards applied by underpaid and undertrained corrections officers is actually all that much more 'humane' than death.

There's more broken about the system than the death penalty. Abolishing the death penalty without first fixing the problems in the prison system will just lead to more people suffering, not fewer.

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

"You pay for it - I'll support the abolishment of the penalty, and then maybe you'll be up for fixing the system too."

Ah the sweet smell of the unresearched.

Let's set aside the idea that moral decisions should not be based on economic reasons and address the specific issue raised, Cai.

Trying a capital punishment case costs the State millions extra. Last one I got close to (not in any sort of professional sense) the non-capital case was going to cost the government close to a million - the capital case was going to run in excess of five million. These are projections made by the state only - the State and feds categorically refused to produce teh actual budgets for these cases. It also does not include the money the State has to pay to the public defender's office or to the cost of the sentence hearing - which is very, very protracted for maybe not so obvious reasons. It also does not count the required appellate protections necesary help prevent people like Amrine from being killed by the state.

Abolishing murder by the state is cheaper than killing people. So you want me to cover the difference? OK. Where do I send the bill.

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

You are killing these people in cold blood to be merciful, Badger? Save them a lifetime of rape and sodomy, substandard health care, and the psychoses that result from mental and emotional deprivation? You are killing them to protect them from becoming the animals that our penal system creates? Interesting spin. I wonder what those being killed in cold-blood think about that. I wonder what the - crap, what is that book called? Oh, right. I wonder what the Bible has to say about that. I guess it is OK. After all, if we can stone an adulterer, why not murder those we imprison?

Confrontation 10 years, 7 months ago

It's sad that not everyone has access to DNA testing in their cases. This technology should be made available to everyone who is in prison and has evidence that needs to be tested. Take a look at this case on CNN today:


Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, Dot, I think suicide is wrong as well whether it be done by hanging, by cop, or by the cold blooded killing of the State execution machine. But that is at least a moral decision made by the individual and not the cold blooded killing of another human being.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

I wonder how many anti-death-penalty people have lost a loved one to a savage, brutal crime? And, I wonder if their stance for criminals "rights" would change. A worthless individual, a plague to society from when they were born, in and out of prison for the last 50 years brutally kills a member of your family or your entire family (as happened recently in Connecticut...oh, after they raped your wife and young girls, then tied them to the bedpost and burned them to death), and you're ok with them living out their lives in prison, with possibility of parole?

You're really ok with that? You'd turn the other cheek? The Bible also says "eye for eye".

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

Old Testament. It also says to stone the inherently different, those who eat the wrong food, wear the wrong clothes, or do the wrong things. What about the New Testament promises of redemption available to all? What gives you or anyone else the right to take that away absent an imminent threat? And if you say "the law," "social contract," "dude had notice," or anything similar you are avoiding the question. What makes the law, the social contract, or the presence of process right in mandating the cold blooded killing of another human being?

As for the emotional appeal, moral decisions are best made after educating oneself to the issues and engaging in thorough and frank contemplation, not in the throes of grief or rage. Opposing the death penalty is a question of what is right - not what feels right. That said, these issues have been studied and it is found that for the vast majority their views on the death penalty do not change by losing a loved one to murder. If they were against it before, they are against it after.

Ever heard of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation? If not, you should. They have an active a vibrant chapter in Topeka. They also have a web site: http://www.mvfr.org/

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

Baille, if you want to stay on the biblical theme, then you must also believe in the devil. Some people are possessed by the devil. The devil is inside and they are rotten to the core. No good and never will be. They are evil, not human and therefore suscpetible to be treated with subhuman respect.

And the death penalty seems perfectly appropriate in these cases.

nekansan 10 years, 7 months ago

There are far fewer innocent people put to death than there are murderers that have walked free. We obviously should make every effort to ensure justice, but the court has a very high standard and I don't believe for a second that any juror that takes part in a capital case takes their duty lightly. Can you really claim that the Timothy McVeigh's & Lisa Montgomery's of the world should have the opportunity to be free again and possibly injure others. What we really need is a change in the law that allows someone to be Guilty but insane. We got lucky in the Motgomery case that the jury did not believe her insanity defense, but there are others that have been able to go free after horrific crimes. When your actions , insane or not, elevate to the level of taking another human life you need institutionalized not solely for treatment but for the protection of the society as well. We are far too lenient with murderers.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

And far too forgiving of pedophiles and rapists.

Grundoon Luna 10 years, 7 months ago

There are sentences of guilty but insane.

There are sentenes of life without parole.

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

Uh..OK, Kneejerk.

And I agree, NEkansas. The current laws are mental incapacity are laughable and either insanely punitive or insanely lenient in their application. The British model of Guilty but Insane would go a long way in effectively addressing the intersection of mental illness/disability with felonies.

badger 10 years, 7 months ago

Two things, Baille:

  1. You missed my actual point. I made no statement directly for or against the death penalty, so your hyperbolic repetition of 'killing in cold blood' is falling on deaf ears. As it stands now, there is so very much more wrong with the system than the death penalty. Millions of people are focused on ending the death penalty, and that's well and good for them, but almost none of them are focused on prison reform. They see the 'humanity' of the issue as ending with the abolition of the needle. They don't care if inmates are housed ten to a cell designed for four, left without proper sanitation when sinks and toilets fail, beaten and raped by guards and other inmates, denied basic health care or dentistry despite excruciating pain, or just simply warehoused like animals. Just as long as we're not killing them, they say, it doesn't matter how 'those people' live. I want to make sure all you people advocating for the lives of these folks consider just what sort of a life you're saving them for, because if you're just going to save them from the needle so they can die of AIDS, then you really need to rethink your version of 'humanity.'

  2. I don't much care what the Bible has to say on the matter. It's a nice enough book, but not actually my guide to morality. My gods don't really get down with the stoning. They do, however, say that life is sacred, but that 'sacred' does not necessarily mean 'protected from all harm beyond the path of reason.' My practice says that those who do not cherish life do not deserve it. So, you'll not see me greedily advocating for the death penalty, but I do believe that if someone acts with no respect for life or the living, then his life is forfeit to the will of those empowered to mete justice. At that point, they have the power to choose what will be the most fitting punishment for the transgression, be it a quick and merciful execution, (which our death penalty is still not), a productive incarceration (which our penal system does not offer), or a ritual of atonement (community service does a fair job of this for minor transgressions).

The death penalty, honestly, is the least of our worries. The bigger issue is the utter lack of justice in our justice system. It just doesn't lend itself as well to mailing campaigns and bumper stickers.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

What mental curve in the road did you people take to end up in Thosepoorprisonersville? Except for the very few wrongly accused, the vast majority of the people in prison are scum and deserve to be treated thusly.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

anxiousatheist (Anonymous) says: But if the work is already done, (the bomb) went off, then what is the punishment in killing the evil-doer?

(Let's take the case of T. McVeigh the baby killer.) And the answer is, "pure pleasure".

badger 10 years, 7 months ago


It's generally considered that the high recidivism rate has a lot to do with prison culture. When we warehouse people like animals, we turn the ones who weren't into animals. And if all these people are here advocating for the end of the death penalty on the grounds that any life is better than any death, then they need to know exactly what that life will consist of.

I'm fine with incarceration, with solitary confinement as a punishment for further offenders, even with the philosophical idea of life in prison with no parole. But right now 'jail' means beatings, rapes, abuse, humiliation, and pain far in excess of what I think is appropriate as a punishment for, say, writing bad checks or having half an ounce of pot in the wrong county or stealing a car. I'm not fine with that because I don't believe that 'criminal' necessarily mandates 'animal' and seeing human beings treated the way we treat our prison inmates serves neither mundane nor spiritual justice.

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

Sorry for the miss, Badger. Glad to see that we are in substantial agreement.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

badge, this is one of those issues where people don't budge. Abortion, firearms, death penalty. I think it just boils down to what you feel, and I feel nothing for people who are in prison. I don't feel sorry, I don't feel like helping them. Now, the people on the outside whose lives have been affected by these criminals, I can feel something for them, whether they were affected financially or physically.

And I certainly believe if crimes are bad anough that the death penalty is appropriate.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years, 7 months ago

Aw gee what do you whining liberals think should be done with the woman who killed a young mother and cut her baby from her womb? Poor misguided soul. The taxpayers should feed, clothe, and provide her medical care for the the rest of her natural life. I don't think so! If I could, I would volunteer to kill that murdering bitch myself, but of course they don't allow volunteer executioners. If there was ever a need for the death penalty, this case is it. My sympathy is saved completely for the victims of crime, to hell with the criminals! Thank you, Lynn

Baille 10 years, 7 months ago

"Whining liberals?" It is just so much easier to disregard the opinions and arguments of others if you can first label them and call them names, isn't it?

You know why they don't allow fine upstanding citizens such as yoursef to kill those convicted of a capital crime? Because that would be murder. Vigilante murder. So what is the difference if some guy who works for the state does it? Nothing - except instead of vigilante murder it is a contract killing. Take away the taxable nature of the payment and Joe Executioner is just another paid hitman.

C_hertling 10 years, 7 months ago


" If you cannot see things in degrees, then you are missing a lot of the details that one would need to make a consistent decision."

So if someone is pro-life, anti-capital punishment and supports the Iraq War, you consider them to be a hypocrite... even though they are really just "seeing things in degrees" as you recommend?? Sounds pretty hypocritical of you...

nekansan 10 years, 7 months ago

"I guess I wonder at what point do you stop "feeling" for people? Because someone is in prison, you don't "feel" for them? You don't "feel" for the innocent man that's been imprisoned wrongly? You don't feel for the 17 year-old that never had a chance to learn wrong from right and is now stuck in prison for the rest of his 60 years? How about the mentally retarded that were never capable of knowing what they were doing? Again, if you believe that right-and-wrong is simple, beware to not become simple yourself. By the way, don't change the argument towards the victims as if you care more about them than me, this is a moot point and has nothing to do with the death penalty."

I can stop feeling for criminals when they make a conscious decision to stop feeling for others. Capital punishment is only an option in the most violet murders and severe felonies. When a person's actions elevate outside the social norms that they violate such a boundary they do not deserve compassion. I am also perfectly OK with the death penalty not being available in cases where insanity can be demonstrated. But in an instance where such fundamental ethical boundaries as life and death are ignored purely claiming a mental deficiency is not a reasonable or just defense. I know many people with mental retardation that can easily differentiate between right and wrong and are able to lead productive lives a a valuable member of society. I also don't believe for a second that anyone can grow up in an environment where they truly do not understand the severity and ethical/moral implications of murder. As long as an individual has the mental capacity to know the difference then they are not insane and they must be held accountable for their actions . As stated earlier in instances where an individual is "insane" then capital punishment should not be an option but all other forms of incarceration should remain on the table. Capital punishment is an appropriate consequence for severe enough violent offenders as they have demonstrated their indifference to life and chose not to respect even the most fundamental rights of others.

SloMo 10 years, 7 months ago

Punishment is not the same as revenge. I don't think the state should be in the business of revenge. Individuals who have been victimized may wish for revenge, yes, but that doesn't mean the state should grant it to them.

The state's business is to keep its citizenry safe. Some people need to be kept away from the general populace for the sake of its safety, and that is the state's responsibity. The state should also be able to determine reasonable punishment (such as fines, loss of privilege, imprisonment) when warranted.

I also believe that citizens who are in prison should be kept safe (end prison gangs, rape, etc). Punishment does not have to match the crime in brutality.

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