Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00
(continued from page 2)
Mike Farrell holds up public figures, newly skeptical about the judicial process in capital punishment cases, to support his argument that the system is so error-prone that the death penalty should be abolished. I would prefer he try to make his case on a higher level and say explicitly what he implies: under no circumstances should the state put anyone to death for a criminal act. He wouldn't care if a man walked up to a person and shot him or her in cold blood in front of 50 witnesses. Life in prison should be the max.
In war, lives are taken intentionally by the state. Regrettably, our society must act the same towards those who, by their acts, declare war against civilized society. These criminals who commit premeditated murder or other capital crimes have declared war on the innocent among us. In that sense they are worse than enemy soldiers are.
By all means fix the process: better lawyers, judges and appellate courts. But don't suggest that the remote possibility of guilt vs. innocence error is the reason behind your call for abolition.
David M. Kellogg
Mike Farrell's summation of the corruption of the death-penalty machine in U.S. politics was a dead ringer for what most civil-minded Americans have suspected for a long time: the system is biased, cruel and prejudiced ... in short, a "slipshod, error-prone system shot through with bias," as Farrell phrased it so succinctly.
In a sharp departure from the Bible Belt rhetoric I was bottle-fed as a child growing up in Dallas, I have come to believe that life imprisonment is just punishment for those convicted of heinous crimes. Evidence that suggests that innocent people have died at the hands of the state is stark and appalling, yet perhaps the single most offensive, frightening point made by Farrell is the legal and political system's refusal to consider post-conviction evidence in death-penalty cases. How these prosecutors, judges and governors can sleep at night is a mystery to me.
West Chester, Pennsylvania
George Vecsey's reasoning in the August 2000 issue ("Do The Olympics Still Matter?") reminds one of the logic that any sport not measuring up to the NBA in terms of market share and advertising revenue must not be very significant. Wimbledon was widely dismissed by critics despite stirring match play from the second round (anyone see Andre Agassi vs. Todd Martin in round 2?) to the Williams sisters' dominance to the final days. The Stanley Cup playoffs were also fobbed off due to "low ratings" on ESPN, despite the obvious fact that hockey is a much more exciting and athletic game than basketball, and of course the NHL doesn't feel compelled to cram the last minute of every game with two hours of commercials. Where's the love of sports for its own sake?