Letters to the Editor

Stop executions

June 18, 2011

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To the editor:

It is time that Kansas does as Illinois did recently and rescind the death penalty. As Scott Turow recently spoke to the Kansas Bar Association telling of his role in that action in Illinois, I became aware we must face this issue aggressively.

As a minister I have never favored such action. It is contrary to the Gospel of Christ and a mandate of the Old Testament. How we as a culture interpret “Thou shalt not kill” as OK is beyond my understanding. As a therapist I am deeply aware that such action is destructive to families and communities.

On the other hand, we regularly execute innocent persons in this act; 138 persons who have spent years on death row have been exonerated from death row in recent years. That is reason enough to never let it happen again. How many more would be alive today if we had modern science in past years that would save them? Kansas must take all this seriously.

Comments

hujiko 3 years, 11 months ago

Kansas is supposed to be a "culture of life" according to Brownback, perhaps this should be taken up with him.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

You need a better translation of:“Thou shalt not kill.”

Translated directly from Hebrew into modern English, it reads: "Do not commit murder."

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

I did a bit of research, here's a clip:

Kansas

Does my state have the death penalty? Yes, however Kansas has not had an execution since 1976.

What is my governor's position on the death penalty? According to the Governor's office, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius “upholds the current Kansas state law regarding the death penalty.”

How many people are on Death Row in my state? There are currently 7 prisoners on Death Row in Kansas. Of the 7 Death Row prisoners, 2 are black and 5 are white.

Is there anything like the Center on Wrongful Convictions in my state? Midwestern Innocence Project at UMKC 5100 Rockhill Road Kansas City, MO 64110 (816) 235-2415

Was anyone on Death Row ever found innocent in my state? To date, no prisoner on Death Row was found to be innocent in Kansas.

sr80 3 years, 11 months ago

Who is the governor of Kansas? what year/world are you in?

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

It's an older clip, but I don't think it's outdated. Kansas has not performed any executions for a very long time, it's a "token" punishment that has not been actually used for decades.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

I gave this example a couple of months ago and no one was able to give me a good response. There was a man convicted of murder in California. He was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. While in prison, he conspired to commit additional acts of murder. He conspired with individuals on the outside to murder those who had testified against him in his first trial. Those murders were in fact carried out. Now, being part of a conspiracy to commit murder and those murders were in fact carried out, he is guilty of murder. What sentence should he receive for those murders, keeping in mind that he is already serving life without parole?

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

I believe there's a practice of giving people consecutive life sentences, which seems odd.

What do you think should happen?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

I believe in the death penalty for some of the most extreme cases. The Oklahoma City bomber got exactly what he deserved. People who commit multiple murders and those that commit the most horrible crimes should be eligible for the death penalty, in my opinion. I'll give another example from my years living in California. A man kidnapped a six month old girl. He then raped her. Then, he threw the girl out of a moving car, just to dump her body. But she lived. No murder, so no death sentence was possible. But it certainly was his intention to kill her. And to do so while in the commission of other crimes, the rape and kidnap. He was shielded from the death penalty by his own ineptitude as a killer. Is this right?
The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst. But in those extreme cases, I do believe that the death penalty needs to be an option to us.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't believe in the death penalty.

First, if it's wrong to kill people, then we shouldn't kill people for killing people.

Second, there's enough evidence for me that our system gets it wrong, and has done so with people on death row, which has been proven with DNA technology.

The idea that we very likely have executed people who were innocent of the crimes they were charged with is horrifying to me.

You do point at an interesting problem, though - once somebody's serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, how much worse can it get for them and what incentive do they have to stop doing bad things?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

Ask the ACLU if they would approve of that or would they file lawsuit after lawsuit, costing huge sums of money.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

If you're against the death penalty, fine. You're certainly entitled to that opinion. However, any human endeavor will undoubtedly have some mistakes. I'm certain that some people have been executed for crimes they did not commit. I'm certain that some have spent decades in prison, dying in prison for crimes they did not commit. Of course we need to minimize that to the best of our ability. But we have to assume that past mistakes were made and that future mistakes will be made. All that does is recognize that we are human and we make mistakes. From my perspective, I'm not sure executing someone is any worse than putting a person in prison for decades with the certainty that they will die there.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

It's clearly much, much worse - and I'm surprised you don't see that.

Somebody in jail has the potential to be freed, if evidence is found that exonerates them. And states often compensate those freed for the injustice.

Those avenues are not available to dead people.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

You're assuming innocence with the possibility of exoneration. That part of the prison population is extremely small. I was speaking about the larger group of prisoners who are there because they were correctly convicted of horrible crimes. Death or 40 years in jail where you will die of natural causes after a life of violence? Assuming I'm a member of the much larger group that was correctly convicted, I think I'd choose a quick injection.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

The problem is that you don't know which of the prisoners is "correctly" convicted and which is not.

If one of those that has been correctly convicted wants to kill themselves rather than spend a lifetime in jail, that's fine with me.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

We make certain assumptions. Prior to trial, there is a presumption of innocence. After conviction, there is a presumption of guilt. Any other system would lead to a total collapse of the process. There is an appeals process, and people are exonerated, sometimes. Convictions are overturned for a variety of reasons, mostly having little to do with guilt or innocence. But the presumption of guilt post conviction is equal to the presumption of innocence prior to a trial.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

So?

By that token, you assume all who are convicted are guilty.

But that's clearly not true.

Your faith in convictions is a little frightening to me.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

But if we don't assume they're guilty, then innocent people are being wrongfully imprisoned. And as you said earlier, we don't know which is which. Surely then we must free everyone. That's the obvious and logical conclusion to your argument. I have enough faith in the judicial process to know that the numbers of innocent people wrongfully convicted is very small, a number I can live with, given your alternative of having no prisons at all. There is no system that will make zero mistakes. We can only try our best.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

That ok for a while, but when we get to killing them, it's not good enough for me.

And, innocent people are in fact being wrongly imprisoned.

Do you have any statistics to back up your feeling that the mistakes are small in number?

I've never advocated for no prisons - don't know where you got that idea. I've said that killing people removes the possibility of wrongfully convicted people getting out, compensated, and living the rest of their lives.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

We can assume some small numbers of innocent people are imprisoned. What that number is, I have no idea. But if that's a concept that we can't live with, then what? The only alternative would be to not put people in jail. We could try to minimize the numbers even further by raising the standard necessary to convict a person. But those standards are already incredibly high. Raise them too much and again, you have a system where no one can get convicted. I'm comfortable with the system we have. Remember, we all assume the same risk that we might be the person wrongfully convicted. Yes, it could happen to me or you. But just as we know intuitively that the overwhelming number of guilty people get away with their crimes, I don't want to increase that number. Even if I run the risk of being that rare individual wrongfully convicted.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Again, that's fine unless we kill them.

And, without statistics, we don't know if it's a small number or a larger one.

I don't know these things that you seem to know, somehow, but without any evidence. That the overwhelming number of guilty people get away with crimes, and that a very small number of innocent people are wrongly convicted.

Perhaps you "feel" these things rather than "know" them.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

Well, we could look at all the reported crimes in America. We know some crimes go unreported so we could estimate a higher number. Then compare that with the number of convictions. I'm guessing that it would be less that 25%. If I'm correct, then 75% of crimes go unpunished. And as to your concerns about putting people to death, the third comment in this thread (from Ron H.) tells the tale. In Kansas at least, it's death penalty in name only.

rtwngr 3 years, 11 months ago

The only way you can justify this position is to believe that the child in the womb is not a human. Do you think you have the right to tell another individual they should not commit murder regardless of the age of the victim? All medical evidence proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the child in the womb is human.

"My wife and I would never dismember our child in the womb but we don't feel we have the right to tell someone else it's wrong to dismember their child in the womb."

Sounds obtuse, doesn't it? Maybe you should have a closer look at what abortion really is.

rtwngr 3 years, 11 months ago

The child has a distinct genetic code, different from the mother's. The organs you refer to do not. If you are saying that dependency determines personhood then what about a child born needing a respirator? What child born could survive without being dependent on the mother or a surrogate to survive? Would you defend the right of a mother to abandon her child one day after birth if she "changed her mind" and the child was "inconvenient"? Logically you can conclude that a child in the womb that has a completely functioning central nervous system can feel pain. Can you imagine what it would be like to be ripped to pieces by a suction tube? If there is any doubt then why don't we err on the side of life?

rtwngr 3 years, 11 months ago

This is a straw argument. A mere infant, toddler, or small child cannot survive on its own. How are their lives more viable than an infant in the womb. The heartbeat of a child in the womb has been detected as early as 7 weeks. Are you saying that the right to live is a question of development? Using that argument means a teenager has more of a right to live than a toddler or an adult has more of a right to live than a teenager. Sorry. Life is life. It is not a matter of viability, development, location or any of these things. Life is life.

rtwngr 3 years, 11 months ago

The only way you can justify this position is to believe that the child in the womb is not a human. Do you think you have the right to tell another individual they should not commit murder regardless of the age of the victim? All medical evidence proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the child in the womb is human.

"My wife and I would never dismember our child in the womb but we don't feel we have the right to tell someone else it's wrong to dismember their child in the womb."

Sounds obtuse, doesn't it? Maybe you should have a closer look at what abortion really is.

rtwngr 3 years, 11 months ago

The only way you can justify this position is to believe that the child in the womb is not a human. Do you think you have the right to tell another individual they should not commit murder regardless of the age of the victim? All medical evidence proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the child in the womb is human.

"My wife and I would never dismember our child in the womb but we don't feel we have the right to tell someone else it's wrong to dismember their child in the womb."

Sounds obtuse, doesn't it? Maybe you should have a closer look at what abortion really is.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Are you claiming that nobody is ever wrongfully convicted?

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Of course not.

But, the obvious solution to that problem is for the police, lawyers, etc. to do a better job, and not make mistakes.

Then, the rightful convictions would stand.

50YearResident 3 years, 11 months ago

The Death Penalty just needs to be improved. Anyone "caught in the act" of murder and those convicted with indisputable evidence need to be put to death within 30 days of the murder. End of problem. Any convictions with questionable or less than positive evidence can be gived "life". There has to be severe penalties to deter murders.

50YearResident 3 years, 11 months ago

Every one helps. Re-read my post, I am referring to 100% guilty.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Recanted testimony could of course mean that the person was wrongfully convicted.

Legal errors are different.

50YearResident 3 years, 11 months ago

The death penalty has to be swift to be effective. Waiting on death row for 10 or 15 years does not deter murders. Make it happen, now, not years from now.

Steve Jacob 3 years, 11 months ago

One big improvement with the death penalty now is the lawyers themselves. If there is a chance for the death penalty, you end up with a much better lawyer then you did 20 years ago. Let's put it this way, I trust the people getting sentenced to death now then I did 20 years ago.

Not big on the death penalty. Does Jonathen & Reginald Carr and John Robinson deserve it, heck yes. For single murders, not sure.

verity 3 years, 11 months ago

People still get railroaded, badgered into confessing, misidentified in lineups, evidence gets "mislaid" or contaminated, prosecutors withhold evidence illegally or are willing to get a conviction at any cost---the list goes on.

Very seldom are we 100% sure.

Even recent cases in Lawrence were based on circumstantial evidence. The criteria is reasonable doubt, not 100% sure.

You or your loved one might be the person who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, misidentified or just have no alibi. Would you be willing for a few mistakes to be made then?

Jimo 3 years, 11 months ago

As long as the Party of Death runs Topeka, this isn't going to happen.

jaywalker 3 years, 11 months ago

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Jimo 3 years, 11 months ago

Hey buddy, you can follow Jesus or you can follow Ayn Rand. You voted in the Party of Death. Don't think you won't be held responsible for that.

jaywalker 3 years, 11 months ago

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Jimo 3 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jaywalker 3 years, 11 months ago

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gkerr 3 years, 11 months ago

Wanton murderers deserve to be put to death after due process conviction. Capital punishment in some cases is just and fair. I do not believe the option for capital punishment should be eliminated. Gkerr

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Why?

If it's because they did something bad and wrong by killing, how is it then good and right to kill them?

50YearResident 3 years, 11 months ago

We have 250 million good people in the USA, we don't need 1 million bad ones.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

That's a rather silly question.

Of course not - and I never advocated for that. The question stands - if killing is wrong, and that's why we punish people for it, how can it be right to then kill them?

gkerr 3 years, 11 months ago

Jafs, Wanton first degree murder is not to be equated with capital punishment . They are distinguished from one another because they are completely different species of killing. Brutally beating a pet dog to death out of anger or spite is not the same as putting a dog down for say savagely attacking some children or euthanizing a suffering animal due to age or disease.
Gkerr

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps.

What is the motive for capital punishment?

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Your first point assumes an "eye for an eye" kind of "justice" - but nothing will bring back a loved one who's been killed.

The second is odd - we punish somebody for doing something by doing the same thing to them?

The third might be valid, but as you point out, it doesn't really work that well.

kernal 3 years, 11 months ago

"We have 250 million good people in the USA, we don't need 1 million bad ones."

At last count in 2010, our population was just over 308,400,000 and 1,000,000 of those were incarcerated in U.S. prisons or jails.

tscaf2000 3 years, 11 months ago

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jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

And the whole world is blind.

Ghandi

50YearResident 3 years, 11 months ago

I like that and it will be my new slogan. "If No Doubt, Take Them Out"

bliddel 3 years, 11 months ago

Even if there's "only" one mistake in hundreds of capital trials, it's unacceptable. It is better to let ten guilty people get off with "only" life in prison, than to kill one innocent human being. DNA evidence in Illinois has conclusively proven we're not smart enough to get it right consistently. So, until we can be right pretty much all the time, we should have a moratorium on executions.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Thou Shall Not Kill with one large exception = the millions of innocent men,women and children in the oil rich nations of the world.

jaywalker 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh, come now, ye arbiters of yon chaste forum. Surely that last post of mine didn't warrant deletion. While tongue in cheek, it was merely a pseudo- apology, nothing inflammatory or profane whatsoever, yet you leave those two posts of Jimo's?
So, incite at will and we'll delete all who challenge. Excellent. What exactly are the criteria you go by? There certainly are a number of race-baiters and their counterparts, quick to cover others in their "racist!" blankets, and yet those numerous posts litter these boards untouched?

You folks are usually pretty solid and I've never had real reason to gripe before, so the benefit of the doubt is yours.

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