Letters to the Editor

Don’t let the worst set the standard

Jonah Goldberg was being less than straightforward in his April 23 CDT column, “Death penalty opponents are being dishonest in their arguments.” His points were lame and specious, and the opposition views he cited were not substantial.

In short, capital punishment is cruel, inhumane and degrading. The death penalty is extremely expensive and enormously time-consuming to administer, and it has no deterrent effect. It is immoral in principle as well as unfair and discriminatory in practice.

The most terrible places I’ve visited include the Vietnam Theater of War, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Hiroshima/Nagasaki and Michigan City, Ind. It was at the latter, on the condemned’s behest, that I witnessed the state-authorized murder of Ziyon I. Yisrayah (slave name: Tommie J. Smith) on July 18, 1996, at the Indiana State Prison.

Yisrayah was involved in despicable crimes that led to the shooting deaths of a Brinks guard and and an Indianapolis police officer. His lethal injection was botched — it took one hour and nine minutes for Yisrayah to be pronounced dead after the procedure was started.

His death was terrifying and horrible, but proponents would say that Indiana showed about the same amount of mercy that Yisrayah showed his victims. This has always been one of my problems with the death penalty. We justify doing awful things because people like Yisrayah (or Dylann Roof or Eric Frein) have done awful things. I don’t want the worst among us to set the standards of conduct for me. Or for the government that represents me.

Douglas M. Mason, Port Matilda

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