Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hey, Maryland: We got letters

So as some visitors to this site know, Maryland is expected to consider abolishing the death penalty this year. This letter to the editor, published in a small Maryland newspaper, caught our eye:

Abolishing death penalty would be grave mistake

With the violent crime rate increasing, such flawed legislation would only encourage criminals to continue committing violent crimes that under normal circumstances warrant and deserve the death penalty.

I resent paying taxes to support the life of a criminal in a state penitentiary who would have deserved the death penalty.

I urge the legislature not to pass such bad and flawed legislation and keep the death penalty on the books to discourage violent crime.
Al Eisner

But wait, you say. Why is a blog titled Abolish the Death Penalty publishing a letter to the editor that is, oh, say, 180 degrees counter to our mission?

Because these letters came in to the same newspaper in response:

Readers: Studies show death penalty does not deter crime

Al Eisner confused the facts surrounding death penalty repeal in Maryland ("Abolishing death penalty would be grave mistake," Feb. 7 letter).

All serious studies of the death penalty have shown overwhelming evidencethat it does not deter violent crime. Regions with the most executions have the highest murder rates and those with the fewest executions have the lowest murder rates.

As for cost, a death sentence almost always costs more than a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

For these and other reasons, I agree with Gov. Martin OMalley's position that Maryland's death penalty is ineffective and our limited resources are better spent on proven crime prevention policies.
Kathy Bovello
Chevy Chase

I am proud that we have a governor who is willing to be a leader working for good government through the repeal of the death penalty.

The risk of convicting an innocent person is too great a cost to maintain Maryland's ineffective death penalty.

Since 1973, 120 innocent men and women have walked off of our nation's death rows after evidence revealed that they were sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit.

And mistakes have happened in Maryland. Kirk Bloodsworth was twice tried and wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton. He was sentenced to die and spent nearly a decade behind bars before DNA testing exonerated him in 1993. And there have been other similar cases in Maryland where individuals were convicted of crimes and later exonerated, like Anthony Gray and Bernard Webster.

It costs much more to prosecute a death penalty case, which can drag on for years.

We have the option of life without parole, which will alleviate all the current procedural problems.

For these and other reasons, I support Maryland's lawmakers who are working to repeal our ineffective death penalty.
Carol Henig
Garrett Park

I have no statistics to support or refute Al Eisners conclusion that eliminating the death penalty would be a bad idea or that keeping it on the books would discourage violent crime.

I do, however, have a question: Would Mr. Eisner, or any other death penalty supporter, be willing to personally look someone in their eyes as they take that person's life? Then their position supporting the death penalty would be stronger.
Brendan Corcoran

I assume that The Gazette published Al Eisner's letter to bait a response from the readership, since his points are so blatantly and stereotypically incorrect (yet common among those who believe that killing people who kill people shows that killing people is wrong).

Anyone with a basic level of knowledge regarding the issue of the death penalty knows these 2 simple facts:

Capital punishment has never been shown to be a deterrent to violent crime. It has no effect on crime rates.

It actually costs more to put someone to death than to keep them in prison for life.
Peter Auerbach
Silver Spring

The facts do not support Al Eisners assertion that the death penalty will "discourage violent crime," and that its removal will "encourage criminals to continue committing violent crimes."

The murder rate in states that do not have the death penalty is no higher than those that do have it. A 1962 United Nations report concluded that "All the information available appears to confirm that such a removal [of the death penalty] has, in fact, never been followed by a notable rise in the incidence of the crime no longer punishable by death."

In 1987, immediately after Louisiana executed 8 people in 8 1/2 weeks, the murder rate in New Orleans increased by 16.39 %. The death penalty might be a deterrent for rational people like you and me, who actually think about the consequences for their actions.

It never made sense to me that we as a so-called "Nation under God" would imitate the behaviors of violent criminals and stoop to their level and likewise commit murder.
Michael Miehl
Silver Spring

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