Death penalty is unfair form of punishmentThey just don't...

the Forum

January 12, 1994

Death penalty is unfair form of punishment

They just don't "get it," do they?

I'm speaking of people such as Robert P. Miller of Baltimore, John E.H. Bailey of Riderwood and all of the other staunch advocates of capital punishment. (Mr. Miller and Mr. Bailey both had letters on the issue in The Evening Sun Jan. 5.)

In his letter, Mr. Miller bases his argument for capital punishment on the ridiculous premise that the death penalty is, in fact, a deterrent, regardless of all studies which prove it to be just the opposite.

He states that "if these cold-blooded criminals were put to death by one of our 'humanitarian methods'" (a statement which I find to be an incredible paradox), it would "deter" that particular individual from committing the same or a similar offense if and when he is paroled.

In his letter, Mr. Bailey states the single thing that is most wrong with capital punishment. He says, "I think the governor's commission on death penalty's findings are in keeping with the view of most citizens -- that is, to favor the death penalty in certain cases."

And who, Mr. Bailey, gets the privilege of "playing God" to determine which of several perpetrators of like crimes is sentenced to death, and which isn't?

One doesn't necessarily have to be anti-capital punishment . . . to see the things which are so wrong with the death sentence as it is now being administered.

First, as Mr. Bailey himself says, it is not being doled out in an equitable manner. The state prosecutor -- all alone -- decides whether or not to seek the death penalty in a capital case. His decision might not be capricious, but it most certainly is subjective.

And then there is the inequality of the different laws regarding capital punishment among the 50 states. Is it just and equitable for someone who commits a capital crime in a "death penalty state" to be executed, while someone else -- in perhaps a contiguous state which has the death penalty -- who commits the "same" crime gets "life" and is out on the streets again in less than 20 years? I think not.

It's time to forget all of the hullabaloo about whether or not capital punishment is "cruel and unusual." Even the Supreme Court can't come to definite conclusions on that issue. The fact is that capital punishment is totally unfair and inequitable as it exists today. And it is for that reason that it must not be an option.

Have we "got it" now?

Louis P. Boeri


Moral beacons

Maybe President Clinton deserves the darts thrown his way for activities while governor. However, we are in an era of politicians who matured through the pot-smoking 1960s, the divisive 1970s and the wheel-deal-steal 1980s, all shared with Hollywood's philosophy that no excess is too great to commercially visualize or record, and the sad but true clergy sex scandals.

Was there anything that magazines and newspapers would not put into words or pictures in the name of free expression? What public person emerging from that period is not tainted in some way? Who really pulls at each end of the moral leash?

If the public and media hold this generation of office seekers to near perfection standards, then we will surely have a static government run by political eunuchs and neutered wimps.

What do we want -- public policy or Puritan symbolism? Out of the 17 presidents of this century, I count maybe six who would pass the test. Would the great ones care enough to step forward to lead today?

Mr. Clinton's critics should ask themselves: If I had been invited to Donald and Marla's wedding or Howard Stern's New Year's Eve party or to share insider information with Michael Milken, would I have done so?

No shining ethical or moral beacons there to illuminate one's way. Maybe People magazine stamps "allowed" on our personal standards.

Quentin D. Davis


Witch hunt

The recent "rave" at the Timonium Fairgrounds was a tribute to the fact that the majority of today's youth can assemble for the purpose of having fun without creating destruction and havoc.

Instead, Michael Gimbel of the Baltimore County substance abuse office created an unfavorable image with innuendoes, assumptions, insinuations and unfounded charges resulting in negative press.

The headlines should have read "2,000 young people attend all-night dance party with no incidence of bashing, trashing or smashing."

As your editorial "Rant and rave" (Jan. 4) pointed out, neither the management of the fairgrounds, the police nor the community residence took issue with the event. Thus one wonders why Mr. Gimbel finds it necessary to conduct a modern-day witch hunt.

The party had a non-alcoholic ruling and tight security was provided for the sake of compliance.

I was working at the event for seven and a half hours and am a more reliable observer than Mr. Gimbel, who spent about 15 minutes on the premises Friday evening. Your editorial accurately identified a need for an alternative to "teen-agers and young adults hanging on street corners."

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