Saturday Mailbox


January 03, 2004

Time for Oken to pay the price for his killing

With appeals reaching their end, lawyers for Steven Oken -- the murderer of my sister -- may now be on the verge of offering nonsensical filings concerning his last gasps ("Lethal injections spur new debate," Dec. 29).

Death by lethal injection is a benign and clinical method to dispatch convicted murderers. Claims by defense lawyers about the cruelty of using the chemical Pavulon as the second drug in the three-injection cocktail are without merit.

The inmate is rendered into deep unconsciousness by the massive overdose injection of sodium thiopental.

This is a commonly used hospital anaesthetic, but executed inmates receive 10 times the quantity that would be applied in the operating room. They are incapable of perceiving anything that follows.

It is time for Mr. Oken, who has never contested his guilt, to step forward and accept the punishment assessed by a Maryland jury 13 years ago, rather than continuing to cowardly dodge his fate through filing random legal challenges.

Frederick Anthony Romano


The writer is the brother of Dawn Marie Garvin, the woman Steven Oken was convicted of murdering.

Carry out executions of the condemned

Enough is enough. Those who believe Steven Oken and the other nine men on death row don't deserve to have their sentences carried out are at it again -- making even more excuses about cruel and unusual punishment ("Lethal injections spur new debate," Dec. 29).

Get over it. What these animals did to get where they are should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Putting these so-called poor souls out of our misery should be our top priority.

Let's show them that Maryland is serious about making them pay for their crimes, and get busy emptying out death row.

Harry Owings


Assault-weapon ban must be renewed

The daily barrage of news regarding violence and gunfire in our city, along with the sniper trials in Virginia, ought to remind us to be mindful of ensuring the continuation and strengthening of gun laws.

The federal assault-weapon ban will expire on Sept. 13 unless Congress and the president act. Protecting our communities from assault weapons is a vital safety issue.

According to FBI data, one out of five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty from 1998 through 2001 was killed with an assault weapon.

Since the 1994 federal ban was enacted, the gun industry has worked tirelessly to evade it. It markets "post-ban" assault weapons that are identical in function to banned weapons. One example is the Bushmaster rifle used by the Washington-area snipers. It is a "post-ban" version of the AR-15 assault rifle banned by name in 1994.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy have introduced legislation to renew and strengthen the current ban. Maryland Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes and all of our congressional representatives in Maryland should insist that Congress take up this important bill before the law expires.

President Bush must also exert leadership to ensure this vital public safety measure is passed and signed into law.

Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk


The writer is rabbi of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

New roads in Alaska will ruin rainforest

"Understated" is the kindest word I can find for the Bush administration's suggestion that its decision to exempt Alaska's Tongass National Forest from the rule that had put it off-limits to road-building impacts only 3 percent of the rainforest ("National forest opened to logging," Dec. 24).

Using the same statistical shell game, a decision to pave and clear-cut all of Yellowstone National Park could be described as impacting just 3 percent of America's National Park System because development would be limited to only 2.2 million acres.

This sounds ridiculous because as a nation we recognize that our national parks contain some of the best of our country's natural treasures and deserve protection.

But, sadly, the Bush administration has chosen to revoke protections from the best of America's rainforests.

Just 4 percent of the Tongass contained the biggest and most productive old-growth stands -- the ecological heart of the rainforest. More than half this area already has been clear-cut and scarred by logging roads.

And now the Bush administration and its allies in the timber industry have targeted 300,000 acres of the biggest trees and the best wildlife habitat for logging.

This will leave an industrial-scale footprint of clear-cuts and road-building across 2.6 million acres of the rainforest.

Brenta L. Gardner


City ignores rules for protecting trees

Concerning the study on Baltimore's shrinking forests, it should be noted that part of the problem is that city foresters remove healthy trees at citizens' whims without regard for rules and regulations ("Study shows a shrinking urban forest," Dec. 15). They also ignore protests of these actions.

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