Note: This letter was sent to the Letters Editor of the University of Washington Daily in response to a letter criticizing my previous op-ed piece on the death penalty. Unfortunately, the Letters Editor chose not to publish it.
November 9, 1990
132 Communications, DS-20
Seattle, WA 98195
I would like to address some of the points raised by Geoff Braun in his reply to my editorial on the death penalty.
Mr. Braun states that my editorial offered no solutions. I never claimed to know how to solve the problems of violent crime and prison overcrowding in our society. But then again, as demonstrated in my editorial, the death penalty is certainly not a solution to these problems, since it costs far more than life imprisonment, and, as Mr. Braun admits, it is not a deterrent. Thus, since my position does not remove a viable solution, I am under no obligation to propose a new solution. I do know, however, that the use of the death penalty focuses our attention on a few executions, the modern equivalent of the human sacrifice, and keeps us from trying to work out real solutions to the problems of crime.
As far as prison overcrowding is concerned; there are currently 11 men on death row in Washington, and there have been 141 executions in the U.S. since 1976. These numbers are absolutely insignificant in relation to the total prison populations, and killing these people would have virtually no effect on prison overcrowding.
In regards to the claim that "someone on death row has no rights", I would have to disagree. That which characterizes a civilized nation is the rights of its citizens that it agrees to uphold. All of its citizens, regardless of what they have done, have certain basic rights. For instance, all people have the right to a fair trial, and all people have the right not to be tortured. So if people, even those on death row, have any rights at all, I cannot think of one more basic than the right not to be deprived of one's own life. The United Nations recognizes this right, and so do more and more countries around the world as they abolish their death penalties.
Mr. Braun wonders how I would feel if my mother or father had been brutally murdered. I would feel like any other human being. I would feel an incredible loss, I would be very hurt, and yes, I would feel extremely angry. But none of those feelings could be erased by the death of another human being. What if it were your mother or father, Mr. Braun, that killed my mother or father? I would not want to put you and your family through anything like the grief that I felt. The death penalty can never reduce the amount of grief and sadness, it can only double it.
If we are going to allow the state to kill, there better be an extremely good justification for it. The death penalty has no such justification. It is nothing more than cold blooded revenge which solves nothing, wastes taxpayer's money, and results only in more death.
24 July 2005
Copyright 1990, 1999