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Make death penalty quicker, cheaper and more effective

12:00 PM EST, January 9, 2013

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Amnesty International's Frank Jannuzi wrote one of those letters that causes me to ask, "Where do I begin to answer?" ("Time to repeal Maryland's death penalty," Jan. 8).

In the second paragraph, he alludes to the fact that imposition of the death penalty is "extremely expensive," and it is; but the question is, why should that be? No matter which method is used to end the life of a heinous criminal, the "means" to accomplish that are actually inexpensive. How much do those chemicals cost, or that burst of electricity?

The imposition of the death penalty is extremely expensive because it allows for endless appeals at the expense of taxpayers, including the families of the victims! Many of these cases go on for so long that the heinousness of the crime is forgotten or the witnesses actually die! Legislators should be working, not to abolish the death penalty, but to find ways to make it more cost-effective! How about this? One trial, one appeal, then either acquittal, or execution. Now that would quite effectively and greatly reduce the costs. How expensive is it for the public to incarcerate for life a convicted murderer?

In the same paragraph, he resorts to the old mantra of death penalty opponents, that "it does not deter crime." That argument is specious and impossible to prove. How many times a day do "ordinary" law-abiding citizens become so angered, so enraged with someone, that they might murder them, only to relent because they understand the possible ramifications (loss of their own lives) of such acts? No one can say how many times this happens, but similarly, no one can seriously claim that it doesn't happen either. So, at least a part of the time, the reality of a looming death penalty deters murderous conduct!

The effectiveness of the death penalty is greatly compromised when it isn't used. There needs to be a "certainty" attached to it to make it effective, and that hasn't happened. One unarguable, incontestable and unmitigated fact about the death penalty is that it is a certain and complete cure for recidivism; deny that if you will, Mr. Jannuzi!

I am all for any effort to completely eliminate any doubt concerning the death penalty! DNA tests, certainly! Certification of "eye witness" accounts, once again, certainly! Whatever is required; but once it has been determined, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the assailant is guilty, "We the People" owe them their right to a speedy trial (and disposition) unencumbered by dragging the process out endlessly with appeal after appeal at taxpayer's expense.

One last note: Due to Mr. Jannuzi's position as deputy executive director of Amnesty International, I believe his commentary to be colored more by his ideology than common sense!

Robert Di Stefano, Abingdon

The writer is a retired major with the Baltimore City Police Department.

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