Q: North Carolina recently executed the 1,000th person to die in a U.S. death chamber since the United States revived the use of capital punishment in 1977. Are we executing too many people? Too few? Can the death penalty be a fair and just punishment?
I believe that the death penalty is never justified in a civilized society.
First of all, it does not deter violent crime.
Over the past decade, the murder rate in U.S. states that use capital punishment has been higher than the rate in states that don't use it.
Second, innocent people can be executed.
Since 1973, 122 people have been released from U.S. prisons after evidence emerged that they were innocent of crimes for which they were sentenced to death.
Many of these people spent decades on death row for crimes they did not commit. Who knows how many of those who were executed were also innocent?
Furthermore, the death penalty in this country is profoundly biased in terms of race and class.
Since 1976, when capital punishment was reinstated in the United States, more than 80 percent of the murder victims in cases resulting in execution were white, even though only 50 percent of all murder victims were white.
Also, very few defendants in capital cases can afford their own attorneys. Their appointed attorneys are often overworked, underpaid and vastly inexperienced in capital cases. Some have fallen asleep during the trial; others have come to court intoxicated.
And according to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty."
But my biggest reason for opposing capital punishment is this: It is state-sponsored murder.
Killing people is wrong, even - no, especially - when it is done by the state.
The death penalty can be a fair and just punishment.
This is especially true in the case of someone such as Steven Oken, who admitted to his crime and showed no remorse for his actions.
As long as the death penalty is applied properly, there can neither be too many nor too few executions, just as there can never be too many nor too few traffic citations.
Commission of a crime should carry consequences.
The worst of crimes should be subject to the worst of penalties.
Capital punishment is, simply stated, government-sponsored murder.
If a person kills someone or the government executes the killer, the result is the same: A precious life has been extinguished.
For the citizenry to allow its government to execute people shows how unfortunately barbaric we are as a culture and a society.
Life should be valued and cherished for the precious gift that it is. Murder is murder no matter if it's carried out by a citizen or a government.
And with all the stories of death sentences overturned after years because of new testimony or evidence, I wonder: Of the 1,000 people executed in the United States since 1977, how many have been wrongly convicted, then killed because of a crime that person didn't commit?
Daniel A. Frost
IT DOESN'T MATTER IF THE death penalty could be fair or just (although I do not believe that it can be either of those things).
What matters is that we know it is not fairly applied or justly carried out right now.
Racial discrepancies, lack of DNA testing for poorer defendants, and less than optimal representation for the poorest are just three elements of bias that render the death penalty cruel and abhorrent, in my opinion.
Are we executing too many people?
Count the number of prisoners on death row who have exhausted their appeals and that is the number of executions that should have already taken place but didn't.
The death penalty is a fair and just punishment, in my opinion. Indeed, to really be fair, the criminal should be executed the same way he or she killed or tortured the victim.
I believe in equal justice for all - the criminal and the victim.
C. M. Britt
Capital punishment to me is a sign of an uncivilized society. How can it be OK for a government to plan to kill someone?
It is time for us to end this barbarous act.
Let us be a peaceful nation in word and in deed.
My objection to the death penalty has nothing to do with guilt or innocence, disparity in application, the fact that it does not deter crime or any religious taboo.
I certainly don't discount these valid reasons to reject capital punishment; however, my objection is to citizens allowing the state the power to kill with the blessing of our legal system.
This, to my mind, is a truly frightening concept.
State-administered killing through death penalty is, in a word, barbaric.
It is the vestige of the ancient, visceral response to wrongdoing, the "eye for an eye" mentality that existed before the emergence, through many centuries, of a nuanced justice system.
There is, of course, a ready alternative to the sentence of legalized murder - life without parole.