Capital punishment or clemency: Is one better than the other?

I staunchly disagree with your Dec. 5 editorial, "Let 'Tookie' live for the good he's doing." Capital punishment is not revenge or necessarily even a deterrent but is a jury's measured expression of societal outrage at egregiously abhorrent acts of murder.

Not only has Stanley "Tookie" Williams maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration, he did not even demonstrate remorse at sentencing.

While it is commendable that Mr. Williams has spent his time in prison writing antigang tracts for children, he has not assumed culpability for his brutal actions. Your editorial claims that by commuting the death sentence to life in prison, Williams can still serve his debt to society. This is wrong - a jury decided after careful deliberation, backed up by appeals courts, that the price for Williams's four murders is to forfeit his life.

Governor Schwarzenegger should not circumvent the will of the jury, especially for one who, though he preaches against gang violence, fails to admit his own brutal acts.
Brian Matt

It's up to the Monitor to decide what its position regarding the death penalty is. Therefore, while I support the practice, it does not upset me to read an argument for clemency for Tookie Williams.

I have only one problem with the editorial: There are many problems with using Mosaic law as a basis for argument, but I point out one: In this same law, capital punishment is repeatedly commanded for certain offenses, including murder. Your editorial writer cannot choose one part of the law out of context of the law entire.

Besides that, there is the problem that "kill" in the verse "Thou shalt not kill," from the King James Version of the Bible, is translated as "murder" in some modern versions.
Chris Morrison
Lithonia, Ga.

With gratitude for your Dec. 5 editorial, I add that our understanding of gangs and their allure can only be fully comprehended if we have access to the minds and wisdom of those who have "been there, done that."

By killing Tookie Williams and others like him, we forfeit an opportunity to learn that which only they can help us comprehend. When we are willing to learn from them, we will make the progress toward fulfilling potential gang members' needs and can efficiently and effectively meet and erase their perceived need to start or join a gang.
Carolyn Leick
Orono, Maine

I thought highly of the Nov. 29 article, "Death row: Does personal reform count?" However, a reference to the "excoriation" of former Illinois governor George Ryan, by victims' families, paired with plaudits from death penalty opponents, falsely accepts a notion that the two groups are exclusive.

My brother and sister-in-law were murdered. But I oppose the death penalty, for practical reasons and as a follower of the original death penalty opponent, Jesus.

Perhaps, in his many decades behind bars, the young man who so damaged my family will find a way to live the beautiful, purposeful life he denied to others. I don't think it should be the purpose of the state to kill him before he has that chance.

It's not the place of the state to articulate, from the tip of a syringe, the fear of mercy that I believe many Americans harbor, even as they busily wear Christian values on their sleeves, nowhere near their hearts. Nor can society make me less a victim by peddling vengeance as that illusion called "closure."
Paul Bosco
New York

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