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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 25, 2014 at 12:02 PM

Death penalty: applied inconsistently; margin of error too high

(Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times)

(Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times)

Corrected version

Capital punishment applied inconsistently

On the one hand I can relate to Brian Moran’s position supporting the death penalty for Jonathan Gentry and others like him [“Should Washington state abolish the death penalty?” Opinion, Feb. 22]. Who doesn’t experience a desire for vengeance and retribution for such a heinous crime?

But I get stuck on some other realities of capital punishment, including those described by Eldon Vail and Dick Morgan, particularly the uneven way in which the death penalty is applied.

How is it that the most prolific killer in the state’s history — Gary Ridgway — escaped the death penalty? Was he the criminal-justice version of “too big to fail” — meaning that when you kill dozens of victims, rather than only one or two — there is more value in gaining information regarding all of the victims than in executing him for any one murder?

I applaud Gov. Jay Inslee for his courageous stand calling for a moratorium on executions, allowing for a renewed debate on this issue.

Janet Barbour Michaelsen, former superintendent Twin Rivers Corrections Center

Margin of error is too high

Dick Morgan and Eldon Vail’s guest column on the death penalty, though informative, left out a fundamental argument against the death penalty. The use of case reviews and the increasing implementation of DNA have shown that about 10 percent of inmates nationwide since 1976 have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence, according to the NAACP. While 1 percent is too much, 10 percent is unacceptable.

People’s lives are ended or permanently ruined by the state. Regardless of one’s own moral stand on capital punishment, it stands to reason that the practice must be stopped based on its flawed and fallible track record alone.

After all, if 10 percent of airliners crashed on takeoff tomorrow, we would immediately ground all flights until the flaws were corrected, regardless of whether or not we felt that man was meant to fly.

There is no moral difference between an innocent person on death row or an innocent air passenger.

Alexander Scott, Seattle

Information in this article, originally published Feb. 25, 2014, was corrected Feb. 27, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Eldon Vail’s name.

0 Comments | More in Death penalty | Topics: Alexander Scott, capital punishment, death penalty

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