Letters to the Editor: Sometimes, the only disincentive to kill is the death penalty

A sign outside a federal prison complex
A sign outside the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., where the U.S. Department of Justice carries out executions by lethal injection.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: Racist mass killers should be executed, not spared as The Times Editorial Board advocated.

The death penalty deters mass killings, which saves innocent lives. As the Associated Press noted in 2007, “Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five, and 14).”

The Times argues that the “death penalty is wrong” for “everyone.” But for some murderers who kill again, it is the only appropriate penalty. If a prison inmate is already serving a life sentence for murder, it does no good to give him yet another life sentence when he kills a guard or another inmate. Only the death penalty can provide any added penalty or disincentive to kill.


Hans Bader, Arlington, Va.


To the editor: I have long believed that premeditated murder is morally wrong, whether committed by an individual or by the state.

In fact, I would contend that an act of murder by the state is the greater evil, because the state is a “rational” actor, whereas the convicted murderer often is not.

Rita Zwern, Burbank


To the editor: Let us look at the death penalty from the point of view of a victim’s relatives.

If you lost your loved one to a murderer, and the person is given a life sentence, you would have to deal with the fact that the murderer is in jail for life, being fed every day and with medical coverage, physical exercise and other amenities. Your tax dollars are helping to keep the murderer alive in prison.

So, not only have you permanently lost your beloved, but you are paying to keep the murderer alive for the rest of their life. This is morally wrong and unjust.


Anthony Hillbruner, Glendora


To the editor: The editorial argues that the death penalty is a “moral wrong” and “has no place in a civilized society.” That subjective judgment misses the point.

If the American criminal justice system were perfect, then we could be certain that every convicted criminal was actually guilty. But we know that, whether because of faulty witness memories, untrustworthy scientific evidence, abusive police interrogation tactics, overzealous prosecutors, incompetent defense counsel, poorly instructed jurors or plain systemic racism at all levels, the system convicts innocent people.

If a convict is incarcerated for a lengthy period before the error is discovered and corrected, at least we can apologize, give them financial compensation and send them on their way, inadequate as those measures may be. But once the convict has been executed, there are no corrective measures.

The 8th Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment. What could be crueler than the execution of a person who is factually innocent of the crime for which they were convicted? The death penalty should be off the table not because it is immoral, but because it is unconstitutional.

Randy Munyon, Santa Clarita