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LETTER: If it claims the life of one innocent man …

In a Dec. 22 letter, Earle Malkin wrote “Why should a death sentence … be discarded?” In a Dec. 19 letter, Tim Hicks wrote regarding former Gov. Steve Sisolak’s intention to commute all death sentences “Why don’t we try … actually carrying out” death sentences? To these gentlemen I will reply: Because the person sitting on death row may be innocent.

The Death Penalty Information Center states that, “Since 1973, at least 190 people who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in the U.S. have been exonerated.” Now one may quibble with those numbers, but just one wrongful death of an innocent person is justification enough to ban the death penalty.

How about in the case of “when there isn’t a shadow of doubt about the crime,” as Don Whitaker argues in his Dec. 30 letter? Of those above 190 persons wrongfully convicted, I’m sure many, if not most of them, were considered guilty without a shadow of doubt by witnesses, police, prosecutors and jurors — even after some were exonerated.

As for the families of loved ones who see an unequivocally guilty murderer escape the death penalty, I can only commiserate. If it happened to a loved one of mine I’d probably be the first in line metaphorically to flip the switch or inject the drug to kill the killer. But looking at it objectively I know the only sure path of protecting the wrongly-accused is to overcome the urge to take an eye for an eye and simply ban the death penalty, as most all countries other than dictatorships and autocracies have done.

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