Fast Focus: 'Do we need a death penalty?' No longer needed

May 18, 2014 

On or about Oct. 21, 2011, I watched the arguments before the Washington State Supreme Court concerning the appeal of Mr. Darold Stenson, who had been on death row for about 18 years. I especially was interested in the comment of one of the justices saying the Legislature has asked the court to comment on the efficacy and fairness of the death penalty, especially in the light of Gary Ridgeway's (Green River killer) life sentence. Mr. Stenson was subsequently given a life sentence.

The wanton taking of a human life is, of course, a heinous despicable crime. The response to these crimes by taking yet another life is totally without merit and should be ended. Security is no longer an issue in our modern prisons. Many states have abolished the death penalty. Our neighbor, Gove. Kitzhaber of Oregon, has put a hold on the death penalty, as has our governor, Jay Inslee, recently.

How could our state lock up Cal Brown for 18 years -- essentially in solitary confinement -- and then execute him a year or so ago? This seems like punishment plus revenge to me. Back in the 1990s Wesley Dodd and Jeremy Sagestegui were put to death after very little defense because they were so deprived they didn't want to live. There are other serial killers in addition to Ridgeway: Willie Mak, Tony Ng and Kevin Na who killed 13 people in a poker game in Seattle in 1983; Ken Bianchi (the Hillside Strangler) who killed several women prior to 1979. All of them escaped the death penalty. There have been many hundreds of murders in our state over the years for which the death penalty was not imposed. Why have these criminals been given the opportunity to amend their lives and not a very few others? How can this possibly be called fair and equal treatment?

I certainly believe we have perhaps the best justice system in the world, but it is far from perfect, as is very evident from the above examples. The state of mind and the situation of the perpetrator, the witnesses, the jury, the expertise of the defense and prosecutors and, yes, even the judges, all are different and have various influences on the decision to execute or not. Hence, the application of the death penalty cannot possibly be applied equally. Each county has its own variances and available resources in the justice system to seek the death penalty or not.

In summary, there is no longer a need or justification for the death penalty. Please recommend to the Legislature that it be abolished.

-- Michael J. Simmons, Richland

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