More correspondence on the death penalty
It sounds like Brian Hickey is full of hate and anger right now [Philly Blunt, “Lethal Rejection,” May 18, 2006]. There are a lot of people like that, unfortunately, who can’t really “see” straight. Killing anybody, police officer or not, is horrible. Taking any life is horrible by anybody. We are not put on this earth to kill. Mr. Hickey needs to calm down and read the reality of it all.
The death penalty cost tons more money than life in prison. It is subject to being overturned on appeal sometimes more than life. Killing them makes it easy on them. Killing them will not bring any relief to the victims’ families. They are more satisfied knowing that the killer is behind bars for the rest of their lives and has to think about what they did every day. Freedom is a horrible thing to lose. Just ask the innocent men and women who went to death row for nothing. They will tell you what it is like, they will tell you how horrible it feels to loose your freedom. They will tell you that they wished they would be put to death soon, so they didn’t have to spend one more day in prison.
My brother was an innocent man that spent three years on death row and another seven sentenced to life. He has been out for five years now and will never be the same. Our system is a mess and if you take the time to get over your anger and see that, you might be able to use your energy to fight the parts of the system that do not work.
We cannot kill people here or we are not better then the killers. We cannot take changes of innocent people being put to death. Some say they are willing to have some innocent people killed so long as most of the time we are really executing the right person. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen to their family member, then they will “see.”
The alternative to the death penalty is not “living on your block,” but life in prison without parole — a sentence that could hardly be called soft on crime. It is also important to note that an IQ in the 50s means mental retardation, and the Supreme Court has ruled that executing people with mental retardation is unconstitutional.
Although I do not agree with Mr. Hickey’s stance on the death penalty, we are in agreement on one key point: the capital punishment system in Pennsylvania is irreparably flawed.
Mr. Hickey asserts in his article that the system “breaks down” after the defendant is sentenced to death, but the facts show that Pennsylvania’s system of capital punishment fails long before any death warrant is signed. Capital punishment is supposed to be reserved for the “worst of the worst” murderers. In truth, in Pennsylvania, the decision of who lives and who dies is based not on the severity of your crime, but almost entirely on your socioeconomic status, where you live, and the color of your skin.
More than 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s death row prisoners were too poor to afford a lawyer for their initial trial. More than half of Pennsylvania’s death row comes from Philadelphia, a city with only 14 percent of the state’s population. Ninety percent of those sentenced to death from Philadelphia are non-white, and even when accounting for case differences, blacks in Philadelphia are 3.9 times more likely to get the death penalty than other defendants who committed similar murders. I believe that even Mr. Hickey would agree that decisions of life and death should not be based on the color of your skin, your income, or your street address.
Mr. Hickey points out that one recently condemned man has an IQ in the 50s. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2003 that the execution of people with mental retardation is unconstitutional. Mr. Hickey does not appear to think that disregarding the Constitution is problematic, but recent polls show that 75 percent of Americans oppose the execution of persons with mental retardation, placing Mr. Hickey’s opinion clearly in the minority.
The author argues that our system of appeals is too extensive. Since 1973, at least 123 death row inmates have been released after evidence proved their innocence, including six men who were wrongfully convicted and released from Pennsylvania’s death row. Cutting down on our appeals system puts our government in grave danger of executing innocent people. I do not believe that anyone, even the strongest death penalty supporter, can justify the state-sanctioned killing of innocent people.
Mr. Hickey also asks whether one would want a murderer “living on your block.” I would like to remind him that our criminal justice system does not make us choose between execution and having a convicted murder living on his block. In fact, the alternative sentence to the death penalty is life without the possibility of parole. Life in prison is a living nightmare, not a walk in the park.
In closing, I would like to say that all of us who live and work in Philadelphia were extremely shocked and saddened by the senseless murder of Officer Skerski. I am offended by Mr. Hickey’s thinly veiled attempt to use this tragic incident as a forum for his own personal, vengeful crusade.