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July 27, 2011 2:43 pm

Death Penalty for Leibby Kletzky Killer and Other Comments

avatar by Ed Koch

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The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison. Photo: CA Corrections.

The death penalty was recently the subject of a Times op ed by David R. Dow, entitled “Death Penalty, Still Racist And Arbitrary.” In a letter to the editor, James A. Dueholm wrote in response, “David R. Dow attacks capital punishment on its statistical bias against minorities. Death penalty opponents have brought arbitrariness upon themselves.” The writer pointed out state laws were enacted to assure fairness and equal treatment by “assur[ing] that a first degree murderer would die regardless of the race of the victim or defendant.”

However, the writer went on to point out, “A closely divided Supreme Court with the hearty concurrence of those who now complain about the arbitrary nature of capital punishment struck down these laws making discretion an inescapable part of the process.” The reference is to the requirement allowing defendants to present to the jury any and all mitigating circumstances in hearings following a finding of guilt.

It is true that whites generally kill other whites and blacks and Hispanics generally kill other blacks and Hispanics. It is also true that while minorities kill more victims than whites do, juries find more whites subject to the death penalty than they do minorities after hearing the various mitigating circumstances in the different cases. Is that discrimination? I don’t believe so.

The opponents of the death penalty have been successful in creating the groundless fear and illusion in many fair minded people that racial discrimination is at play and that more blacks and Hispanics are executed than whites. The facts are just the other way: more whites are executed than blacks. The discrimination allegedly being that the lives of white victims are deemed more precious than black victims. Nevertheless, there is still a significant majority out there supportive of the death penalty. That majority is significantly smaller than it once was because of the false charges of discrimination.

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I believe there are some criminal acts that are so horrific that society rightfully demands the death penalty. Two examples would be the recent Connecticut case where perpetrators raped and killed a woman and her two daughters, clubbing the husband unconscious but fortunately not killing him, leaving him to spend the rest of his days bereft of their company. Another horrific case is the killing of the 8-year-old Jewish child in New York City within the last few weeks, the child allegedly seeking guidance from a stranger, being lost. He was allegedly sedated, choked to death and then dismembered.

No, I would not be satisfied upon conviction with a sentence of life in prison without parole. Would you?

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New Jersey has enacted a medical marijuana law, allowing its use to relieve the pain and suffering of those who could receive pain relief and comfort while living with a disabling disease. The 2-year-old law has not been implemented under Governor Chris Christie because he waited to be certain that the user patients and the state employees growing and distributing the marijuana would not be prosecuted by federal law officials, marijuana possession being illegal under federal law. Governor Christie is now satisfied the program can go forward.

The states that now permit medical marijuana use are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The District of Columbia also permits its use.

It makes no sense to deprive the residents of New York of this medical benefit.

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Paul Krugman had a Times column in which he writes “Ever since the current economic crisis began, it has seemed that five words sum up the central principles of United States financial policy: Go easy on the bankers.” He went on, “As federal officials press state attorneys general to accept a very modest settlement from banks that engaged in abusive mortgage practices.”

If the practices were illegal, as surely some were, possibly involving fraud, shouldn’t some of these people responsible for families losing their homes and having their lives disrupted, subjecting perhaps tens of thousands of people to despair and a significant period of misery and hopelessness, receive prison sentences?

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It is surely hard for people to understand why it is the Republican Congressional leaders think it fair to protect millionaires and billionaires by preventing any revenue increases from being imposed on the two percent of taxpayers – those making more than $250,000 annually, or as some suggest, on those making a million or more annually.

Warren Buffett, one of our richest citizens who is also one of our most civic minded, announced recently with the aid of the tax code (loopholes) that he pays a tax of 14.7 percent on his annual income, although one would think because of his income, he would be in a category subject to a 35 percent tax, the highest tax bracket. He is able to manipulate his income as many wealthy people do so that his income is described as “unearned,” subject to a 15 percent capital gains tax, instead of “earned” income, which most of us receive for employment, subject to much higher tax brackets. Is that fair? I don’t think so and neither does he.

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  • “Paul Krugman had a Times column in which he writes “Ever since the current economic crisis began, it has seemed that five words sum up the central principles of United States financial policy: Go easy on the bankers.”

    The federal reserve has given $16,000,000,000,000 to banks in the last 3 years, on top of what congess has given them, all with the full and entusiastic support of Paul Krugman. If you want to break the financial oligarchy, don’t give them trillions of dollars and then slap a few meaningless crowd-pleasing regulations on afterwards.

    End the fed and abolish legal tender and that’s the end of the financial oligarchy. But you don’t support that because the welfare state you cherish is and always has been completely dependent on the fractional-reserve banking system.

  • Susan S

    The most telling numbers about race and the death penalty concern the race of murder victims. Roughly equal numbers of whites and blacks are murdered each year. In a race neutral system, you would expect the numbers of executions of people convicted of killing whites and blacks to be about the same. However, just under 80% of all executions have been for murders of whites.

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