Readers' Reactions to the John Thanos CaseThe Sun's...


November 06, 1993

Readers' Reactions to the John Thanos Case

The Sun's predictable but irrational comments deploring the use of capital punishment even in the case of John Thanos, an admitted, unrepentant murderer of three teen-age children, begs for the voice of conservative reason.

You assert that the death penalty has no place in a "humane society." Well, wake up and smell the fresh ink on too many of your own headlines.

Scores of outrageous murders, rapes, robberies and general violence that occur on a daily basis in this area depict not the humane and social Utopia that you fantasize about, but an angry, barbaric culture that is increasingly savage and malicious toward its less aggressive and vulnerable members.

You argue that by gassing Thanos we fail to meet the criteria of Gov. William Donald Schaefer. How convenient! Isn't Governor Schaefer the very same character whom you regularly tar and feather in your daily crusade for political correctness?

To most of us, a merciless and vicious act against any innocent human stands on its own as an absolutely unacceptable incident, irrespective of the victim's career path.

You assert that there is "overwhelming evidence" that capital punishment does not deter crime. Hogwash! This ludicrous statement flies in the face of elementary school mathematics: One minus one equals zero. Is it not true that John Thanos, by virtue of the death penalty, will be unequivocally deterred from murdering more children?

So what if the United States is alone among Western democracies in retaining capital punishment? We are also alone when it comes to violent crimes per capita. No other country in the world, democratic or otherwise, tolerates the frenzy of brutality that we permit and tacitly endorse in America -- not Northern Ireland, not Bosnia nor Beirut, not Somalia nor Haiti.

Please don't proselytize about us "taking a backward step in the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of maturing society." A good enough sound-bite, preacher, but the only standards that are evolving in the expanding jungle surrounding our homes are those of the predators.

In fact, merely being human in America does not, by itself, entitle one to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Just as one's liberty can be curtailed by the citizenry for poor behavior, one's life, by extension of the principle, should be abruptly abbreviated for monstrous and unconscionable conduct.

David P. Cully


In reference to Betty Romano's letter (Oct. 22), I agree that killers like John Thanos and Stephen Oken "deserve to die," but don't you think that kind of statement is hypocritical and detrimental to society as a whole?

To say that they should receive the death penalty in retaliation for the many horrendous crimes they have committed would infer that killing is acceptable in our society, and for society to accept killing it would mean that low-lifes like Thanos and Oken were innocent of committing a crime at all.

I in no way feel sorry for these men, but killing in any situation is wrong and should not be encouraged as a justified means of punishment or revenge.

We do these killers a favor if we end their life for them, because chances are they were miserable from the start and consequently looked for others that they could make suffer. . .

By killing these men, the victim's families won't get their loved ones back and their pain won't be lessened. Yes, killers like Thanos and Oken do deserve to die, but it's not our job to carry that out. I say lock them up and throw away the key.

Amy Sehman


Your Oct. 27 editorial "Don't Bring Back Capital Punishment" may be as shallow as any I have ever read. You freely apply the phrase "capital punishment," which is certainly among the most damaging misnomers in history. You twice characterize the measure as one intended to fulfill the purpose of vengeance. And you conclude by admonishing your reader that death-by-execution "is inherently . . . immoral."

Consider the nature of the acts that are regarded by this society as capital crimes. What magnitude of arrogance must we possess to even think that we have within our power the means of fashioning a punishment that befits such acts?

Those who survive the victims of capital crimes inevitably come to recognize that there can be no retribution, no revenge, no "getting even." Only restitution could have any meaning to survivors, and restitution is painfully and permanently beyond the pale of any consequence this society can devise for those who commit these heinous acts.

There is no aspect of "punishment" to death-by-execution. There is only (1) the recognition that the perpetrators of capital crimes have demonstrated a capacity to commit acts that completely defy the concept of punishment and (2) reconciliation to the sorry reality that the only thing left to us is the moral responsibility to ensure that the innocent will be protected against repeat offenses by these persons.

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