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Opinion

Readers React: The benefits of being on death row in California

To the editor: Your article on prisoner life on California’s largest death row shows that it’s time to accept that the decision on capital punishment in this state has been made — not by democratic referendum or legislation, but by the veto of a minority, either motivated by moral compunctions or professional benefit. (“A rare peek at San Quentin’s death row, and conversations with inmates awaiting their fates as political battles swirl,” Dec. 29)

The taking of a human life is distressing, even when it is that of a person who, after the most extensive trials and appeals, is proven without reasonable doubt to have taken the lives of innocent people.

This virtual elimination of capital punishment has resulted in those convicted of the most heinous crimes receiving benefits not available to offenders sentenced to life without parole. These include publicly financed appeals and, for San Quentin State Prison’s death-row inmates, a special facility for mental healthcare.

California will not execute those whom a majority believe deserve death, so the least we can do is end the charade that makes capital punishment a less punitive version of life without parole.

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Al Rodbell, Encinitas

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To the editor: Your front-page article on death row shows what a farce California’s justice system has become.

You mentioned just a few of the convicted murderers who have been languishing on death row for decades while appealing their sentences. No wonder people claim the death penalty is not a deterrent — how could it be with decades between conviction and execution?

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You published an interesting photo of a condemned murderer typing away on his typewriter in his private cell — not exactly what we picture death row to be like in California. This isn’t justice.

Marcus Kourtjian, Northridge

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To the editor: In the spirit of equal time on capital punishment, perhaps The Times’ reporters will also seek out the victims of these heinous criminals to “get a rare glimpse of how the [victims of the] condemned at San Quentin pass the time.”

Joel Anderson, Studio City 

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