Letter to the Editor


I myself used to support Capitol Punishment. I remember watching the clock on the wall of my 9th grade Geometry class on the morning that Caryl Chessman (if I remember his name right), the Red Light Bandit, was executed. He was a terrible man not unlike the Green River Killer. Problem is, I learned years later that he looked forward to being executed.

My uncle was a prison guard walking the gun rail at San Quentin at the time. I have since worked behind prison walls myself and have come to the conclusion that to put a man who wants to die out of his misery, allows him to escape the full measure of justice (punishment) he deserves.

I have also learned that it costs several times as much money to execute a prisoner after exhausting all appeals than it does to imprison him for life. Life without parole should be just that, unless new and conclusive evidence is found that clears him of guilt.

Many victim's families have come forth to dispel the myth that they get closure from the execution of the criminal who dispatched their loved one. Some, though, get a temporary visceral boost out of it. The lack of real closure comes from the fact that their loved one is still gone and there's absolutely nothing going to bring the victim back, and after the execution, the criminal is no longer being punished.

Finally, I have come to the realization statistically speaking, after all the men who have been executed in the USA, the probability that we never wrongly executed a man may be less than zero.

The Sacramento Bee ran an article Sunday February the 8th, 2004 with this headline, "Can two be sentenced for the same crime?" We're not talking about accessories here, we're talking about two different men being convicted in two separate trials by the same prosecutor who portrayed each defendant separately as the lone gunman in a killing. He got both men convicted and sentenced to death... Also in that lengthy article was the following paragraph:

"In 1989 the California Supreme Court said in an appeal from Riverside County that prosecutors have a right to argue whatever deductions can be drawn in 'good faith' from the facts. 'Their reasoning may be faulty, but this is a matter for the jury to decide'. But the same court also has said in a series of cases that prosecutor's good faith doesn't count in evaluating defense claims of other types of prosecutorial misconduct. What matters is 'the potential injury to the defendant.'

"Injury to a defendant wasn't enough to save Thomas Thompson. California executed him in 1998 despite the 9th Circuit's finding that the Orange County prosecutor manipulated evidence and witnesses and argued inconsistent motives for the crime in order to convict both Thompson and his roommate, David Leitch. 'Here, little about the trials remained consistent other than the prosecutor's desire to win at any cost,' the court said.

"However, the U.S. Supreme Court overrode the decision to stop Thompson's execution on other grounds, saying the circuit judges waited too long to take up the case."

We may never know if it was Thompson or Leitch who committed the crime.

The article goes on to note: "Attempts to correct cases in the federal courts are fraught with such procedural obstacles..."

Indeed, a federal judge in Texas recently asserted that in the case of a convicted prisoner, "Proof of innocence is not enough, once a conviction has been returned by a trial jury." A man in Texas is still serving a life sentence for a crime law enforcement authorities know he did not commit due to crime scene DNA evidence implicating another man as the killer. The true killer has never been charged with the crime.

Now, in consideration of all the light that has been shed on just how screwed up our judicial system has become, how can anyone, of even a modicum of intelligence, hold firm to a conviction that our justice system has never executed an innocent man?

Jim Hart

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