Last week, letters editor Paul Russell asked if it was time to bring back capital punishment. A majority of respondents said “yes.” Here are some of the letters (limited to 75 words or less) we received.
Death penalty is not vengeful, just fair
– My 24-year-old daughter Kelly-Anne was murdered by her boyfriend in 2004. He was a controlling, angry person. I will be at his parole hearing in about 6 years to see if he has changed. He was convicted of 2nd-degree murder, and I would like to see him kept in prison for the rest of his life. Capital punishment, for sure.----John Drummond, Montreal.
– Some people say the state shouldn’t kill, hence their ideological abhorrence to the death penalty. Makes no sense when you think of a soldier’s job. Tori Stafford was just the latest victim of cruelty, thrust on her by the dregs of human wreckage. Like any dregs, such depraved individuals are good for nothing but compost, if that. Unhooded, disgust and contempt in my eyes, I’d be happy to put the noose around their necks and pull the trapdoor.----Lorne Peasland, Victoria.
– Canada should have an automatic death penalty for people convicted of 2 separate, 1st-degree murders. This would allow us to execute the likes of Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson, and avoid executing the wrongfully convicted, as no person will ever be wrongfully convicted of 2 1st degree murders that are separated by a reasonable amount of time or space.----Jeffrey W. Tighe, Toronto.
– A criminal should not be allowed to enjoy a better quality lifestyle than the victim. And in the case of first0degree murder, even life in prison presupposes a better lifestyle than that of the deceased and, thus, the criminal’s death is logical. Not immoral, barbaric or vengeful, just fair.---- Juan C. Joffre, Calgary.
Bringing back the death penalty is necessary. It is an important deterrent to very serious offences. The death penalty is necessary but can be only used for very serious offences and in the most prudent way.----Chris Qiu, Vaughan, Ont.
– Capital punishment is necessary in extreme cases especially involving children. The despicable murder of Tori Stafford even moved me, a former hard-nosed cop. I would consent to abolishing the death penalty but only if a life sentence meant life — which will never happen.---- Steve Flanagan, Ottawa.
– A policeman confronts an armed bank-robber and, in self-defence, shoots him. Justified. At another bank, an armed robber kills a policeman and when he is tried, he gets away with his life, even though he committed a capital crime. I know where I stand, even if you replace “policeman” with “civilian.”----Jack Dixon, Victoria.
– As a physician, it goes against all I believe in to endorse taking a human life. As a mother, however, I would have no trouble pulling the lever on the hangman’s trap door if anyone did to my sons what happened to Tori Stafford or Kirsten French or the victims of Russell Williams. The people who do these types of crime are not fixable — they need to be humanely “put down” for the good of society.----Dr. Susan Piccinin, Ancaster, Ont.
– The death penalty for certain crimes? Yes. And let’s have those put to death then donate their organs for transplant.----Charles Davidson, Toronto.
– The main purpose of the death penalty is not justice, or retribution or deterrence — it is protection of society. It is about making sure that the killer does not kill again.----Pavel Sorokin, Vancouver.
– Our permissive society has created an environment of violence and fear, marked by teenage rioting, sexual predation and brutal killings. Bringing back the death penalty for serial killers and those who kill women and children is the right thing to do.----Ron Fawcett, Toronto.
– We need capital punishment for criminals such as Paul Bernardo. The coldness that these people exhibit while they are on the stand and looking into the faces of the family members of their victims shows the lack of regret for their crimes.----Josh Cranney, Courtice, Ont.
– Having no morals, human predators will eventually kill, so society must eliminate them. Jail serves no useful purpose as rehab does not work, the costs are not warranted. Let’s have another debate about capital punishment and vote for “Tori’s Law.”----Charles Steele, Vineland, Ont.
– We should enact a Young Victims Act and include a provision for state execution, when a person under a specified age is raped or murdered. Executing psychopaths who prey on our defenceless young would be a catharsis for many of us.----Frann Harris, Richmond Hill, Ont.
– Why should society be burdened with keeping Paul Bernardo or Clifford Olsen incarcerated at a cost of 100k a year (or whatever), for the next 30 or 40 years? Not only would execution save taxpayers’ money, it would free up room in prison for other felons.----Harry Koza, Richmond Hill, Ont.
– In 1975, Alan Craig MacDonald murdered a Nova Scotia police officer and the taxi driver who witnessed the murder. MacDonald was convicted of both crimes, however after serving only 12 years of what was supposed to be a life sentence, he was released on parole. Six months later, he brutally murdered 21 year-old university student Lynda Shaw. If Macdonald was executed for his original crimes, Shaw would still be alive today.----Lee Hanlon, Mission, B.C.
– A person who commits murder, such as in the Tori Stafford case, has automatically cancelled his/her right to continue to live in a civilized society — and should be removed.----Hank Bangild, Port Colborne, Ont.
No, as 2 wrongs do not make a right
– A government that has a hard time delivering the mail and other basic public services cannot be trusted to make decisions pertaining to the taking of a citizen’s life. The names Truscott, Marshall or Milgaard stand testament to this simple truth.----Bryan Moir, Vaughan, Ont.
– Capital punishment is not a deterrent and is not cost-effective. If the debate reaches Parliament, it will be another sorry manifestation of emotional decision-making. Revenge is like an orgasm: brief, intense, addictive.----Tyrone Streete, Toronto.
– Once someone dies, their soul is freed to be born again. Therefore, giving the death penalty to even the most-depraved of murderers is still the wrong thing to do. These defective examples of humanity should be locked up securely for as long as possible.----Norbert Kaysser, Port Coquitlam, B.C.
– The state does not have any business killing its citizens. A lifetime of incarceration is a suitable living hell. A story comes to mind, told by Pierre Berton during the abolition debate. A foreign sailor was shipwrecked on the English coast and managed to swim ashore, where he spied a small village with a gallows outside the jailhouse. “Thank God!,” he exclaimed. “I have landed in a Christian country.”----Sigmund Roseth, Mississauga, Ont.
– The death penalty should not be reinstated in Canada — two wrongs do not make a right. Murder rates in the U.S. are much higher in states that have capital punishment. Let’s look for the root causes of crime.----Andy Johnson, Little Britain, Ont.
– The death penalty is society’s revenge to try to remove the guilt of failure — the failure to value the gift of life, the failure to respect the value of others, the failure of fellow humans to be a human. Keep in mind the Japanese proverb: Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. Where do we dig and when do we stop?----Dennis McMillan, Victoria.
– Man’s propensity for error, whether in law, medicine, economics, politics, etc., is legion. We should be sufficiently humble to acknowledge our fallibilities and not allow for another source of error by revisiting capital punishment.----Morton Doran, Fairmont, B.C.
– The death penalty will never ever be resurrected. Only the highly strung will get all knotted up abut it. So shut all the traps and put the gallows where they belong: in the museum depicting a long-gone era when men did not know better and women had no say anyway.----Jerome Henen, North Vancouver.
Guy Paul Morin, David Milgaard, Steven Truscott, many people convicted on Dr. Charles Smith’s erroneous evidence, the poor schmuck hanged for D’Arcy McGee’s murder, the people hanged for the 1837 rebellion for which the instigator was later lauded. Like everybody else, I wish ill to murderers. But I do not want one innocent person ever to be killed by us.----Margie Watson, Toronto.
– I am disgusted by my blood thirsty, vengeance-seeking fellow citizens. Most jurisdictions have turned away from this barbaric practice. If people want to kill someone so badly, the penalty should only be applied in name of those so quick to call for death. Not in my name or my children’s or the rest of this once sane and reasonable country.----Bruce Van Dieten, Toronto.
– Gandalf said it best in Lord of the Rings: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.” The death penalty might not always be wrong in itself, but it’s always above our pay grade as finite human beings.----Richard Dunstan, Nanaimo, B.C.
– 2 wrongs do not make a right.----Doris Garner, Calgary.
What would God say?
– All life is sacred. Criminals are humans who, despite their crime, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. God’s mission is to bring salvation to all men and women. His salvation is not imposed but reaches us through acts of love, mercy and forgiveness that we can carry out.----Paul Kokoski, Hamilton, Ont.
– In direct rebuttal to those who say we can’t afford the death penalty — we can’t afford to continue warehousing murderers. As God almighty commanded. Gen. 9:6: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” So let’s bring back the noose already.----Vaughn McMillan, Calgary.
– The execution of the truly guilty murderer does not show disregard to the sanctity of life and justice and disobedience to the word of God. “He [the government] is God’s servant to do you good.” But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. The word “sword” refers to capital punishment.----John Stefan Obeda, London, Ont.
– Yea and amen to the return of the death penalty. It will prove that we do have respect for human life. As the Bible notes: “The murderer shall surely be put to death” and speaking of the government: “A revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”----Gwen Woods, Mission, B.C.
– The Bible states “an eye for an eye.” This ancient simple rule seems to be lost on today’s judicial system. Let’s get the death penalty back on the books where it belongs and justice will be served once again.----Ian Cuthbert, Oakville, Ont.
Explore other options
– I think the death penalty is too merciful. I would much prefer that, while in jail and at regular intervals, a degree of pain should be inflicted upon the guilty party in equal measure to that inflicted upon the victim. In addition, the ridiculous “possibility of parole in 25 years” should be taken off the books.----Robert G. McLachlan, St. Catharines, Ont.
– Paul Bernardo, Cody Legebokoff, Robert Pickton and Russell Williams are all living very well at our expense in our penal system. Maybe hanging, shooting or drugging them to death is a bit brutal. So a possible solution is an isolated penal colony for this “filth,” similar to rotting in hell.----Douglas Maclean, Canmore, Alta.
– Although I have no objection to the death penalty for child and cop killers and terrorists, it seems to me that a better solution would be to have them work for the state for the rest of their lives to repay society for their misdeeds. Mining slaves would be a good occupation for them.---- Jonathan Usher, Toronto.
– We should bring the death penalty back but not use it. Bringing it back allows retributionists to say, ‘We’re tough on crime.” And not applying it allows the more-enlightened-than-thou crowd to say “Yes, we could, but we don’t aren’t we just so darned morally superior.” This should keep both sides quiet for another 10 years, then we can start the whole debate all over again. Or not.----David Stretton, Maple Ridge, B.C.M.
– If a man is convicted of rape and murder of a child, he should have two choices — capital punishment or castration and imprisonment.---- M.F. Stephenson, Toronto.
– Never mind the death penalty — what’s needed is a “life penalty,” making life sentences truly mean life. Serial killers should also be given consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. In Clifford Olson’s case, that would have amounted to 275 years for his 11 murders without the possibility of endless parole hearings every two years after the first 25 years.----E.W. Bopp, Tsawwassen, B.C.
– We should not endorse capital punishment. Castration should be legalized as a cure anda deterrent for sexual deviants. Women have said this for years.----Val leMaitre, Vancouver.
Unfortunately, there was not room in Monday’s paper for the following letters:
When we allow murderers such as Paul Bernardo to continue their lives even incarcerated, we devalue the lives of our murdered children. We must say that our children’s lives, when taken, are worth more than what we now allow to their murderers. We should have the strength of of our convictions and put these murderers to death. It is not revenge. It is a question of the value and the validation of the child’s life.----Janey Crowe, Surrey, B.C
Of course we should bring back the death penalty. Of course we should reverse the foolhardy decision by Pierre Trudeau and the hug a thug milk-sops , to abolish the death penalty for murder. Of course we should focus our compassion on victims’ rights , rather than criminals’ rights and wrongs. When it is beyond a reasonable doubt , (DNA etc.) “hang-em high!----Gord Kinnon, Alliston, Ont.
What is the sentence for the family of a murder victim? For an attempted murder victim? For a victim of rape, sexual abuse or incest? Life. Those who perpetrate horrendous crimes against the innocent, thus robbing them of their lives, should pay with their own. The death penalty is neither an issue of revenge nor vengeance: It is ensuring the protection of law-abiding citizens from those who have made the choice to inflict harm.----Katherine Bédard, Gloucester, Ont.
It’s high time to ask the death-penalty crybabies which is the most cruellest punishment: to die in your sleep (lethal injection) or spend 25 years behind a 20-foot wall and surrounded with sex-hungry criminals ready to rape you, humiliate you? I would prefer to die in my sleep.----Ed Jurick, Montreal.
Grey is a great colour for suits; capital punishment is black and white as in black skirt and a white blouse. To ameliorate the mental, lifelong suffering of the next of kin of the victim(s); mental misfits like the Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams should be taken out of society so they can never be given the slightest chance of repeating their horrific deeds.----Christiaan Jansen, Mississauga, Ont.
Those that have complete and total disregard for human life, those that would ignore the sanctity of another humans existence – relinquish their right to exist. Those that would ignore the pleading of a human being before them and continue in their dastardly deed in extinguishing the life of another do not deserve society’s compassion. Compassion needs to be reserved for the victims.----Wade Pearson, Calgary.
Murder is an attack on our society, so the only appropriate response is the death penalty. Those who argue that this penalty will not deter a murderer are quite correct, in fact no punishment will act as a deterrent. The death penalty is just and final.----K. Pedder, Oakville, Ont.
I’ll take the yes side in reinstating the death penalty because I don’t believe in using millions of taxpayer dollars to support people who would heinously prey on the most vunerable in society, especially children. Guilt would have to be established beyond all doubt. We wouldn’t want a return to the days of stringing a suspected horse thief up to the nearest tree.----Jim Corder, Nanaimo, B.C.
Canadians have been regarded around the world as a polite, non-assuming, hardworking and basically honest people. These virtues, until the middle of the last century, were underpinned with tough laws strictly enforced. In 1891 the theft of a hat and coat generated a one-year sentence of hard labour for a young first offender and capitol punishment didn’t end till 1962. Certainly, humane changes to rigid laws were justified, but the proliferation of lawyers and liberal do-gooders has produced in Canada a relaxed money-generated system which now favours the guilty at the expense of the victim.----Betty L. Reade, Oakville, Ont.
Consistently, Canadians have polled for the death penalty, for irrefutably guilty murderers who are deemed permanently dangerous to the public. Being so identified is the best reason for execution, no possibility of a repeat murder. Naïve objections that escape or parole won’t happen need to be reminded that it has happened often and can again. Sappy parole boards, terrorists, gangsters, and corrupt conspirators do exist and if incarceration is incompetent, justice has vanished.----Peter M. Maclean, Kingston, Ont.
It’s high time to bring back the death penalty. The our constitution is too lenient and merciful for murderers and killers. If any person is convicted of murder charges I as a tax payer see no reason as to why my hard earned money be spent on such rogues. Such convicted criminals should not be eligible for human rights. If these convicts do not care for others why should community and government care for them?----Firoz Khan, Toronto.
Yes. The death penalty is not revenge, it is the only fitting punishment for pre-meditated murder, serial killing, raping and killing a child, killing a police officer, etc. The case of Clifford Olsen was particularly disturbing, as he was able to torment the families of his victims from prison for years. The death penalty would have prevented this and would have brought final closure to the families of the victims.----Renate Roy, Toronto.
The answer is a resounding YES for all cases where the crime has been deliberate and planned; also in cases where there has been no premeditation but there has existed deliberation ,i.e. the defendant has used force or means that plain common sense identifies them as dead-causing. All of this, of course, subject to the perpetrator having been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The individual who wantonly takes someone´s life, automatically forfeits the right to his or her own. This principle, if applied, makes citizens feel protected because legal retribution conveys a sense of fairness since the State values their lives.----Luis J. Gómez, Montreal.
For heinous crimes that are proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, Capital Punishment should be reinstated. A jury today examining the facts judiciously, coupled with modern technology would / could determine guilt / innocence. All politicians should stop believing that they are protecting Canadians from themselves. Parliamentarians should listen to their constituents, set aside their political expediency to reinstate the Death Penalty,----Peter K Marchant, Pickering, Ont.
There is 1 and only 1 good reason for the death penalty. The murderer executed is absolutely, definitely deterred from being able to kill again. 6 % of murderers kill again. Many innocent lives would be saved, children, pensioners and even prisoners in jail.----Stephen Ottridge, Vancouver.
The death penalty for deliberate murder is morally acceptable and I think all reasonable practical objections to its use can be met satisfactorily. But, I don’t think capital punishment is morally required and I know that a large minority of my fellow Canadians find it morally repugnant. It will alienate the minority from their own community if the majority rules on this one. We best agree on a suitable alternative punishment.----G.G. Brown, Waterloo, ON
Absolutely , when things have reached the point where : even the accused has boldly admitted having murdered , IT IS time we realized that the opposite of RIGHT is being done by catering to these animals , by keeping them alive in a dysfunctional correctional system.----Brian Kinnon, Alliston, Ont.
I am “pro-choice” on execution, convinced that a state should retain this option for dealing with the worst types of indubitably guilty criminals. Canada’s “pro-life” policy on extraditing foreign murderers who flee here often obstructs justice. And many who oppose execution regardless of circumstances seem to lack empathy for the families of murder victims, while failing to recognize that some imprisoned, hardened killers manage to murder and traumatize again.----Dan Sonnenschein, Vancouver
The death penalty will save the public, the expense of taking care of the twisted evil doers, for the next 25 years. It will eliminate some of the pain & suffering of family and friends, by removing the perpatrators from this world it will lessen some of the constant reminders & constant torment, that the guilty parties very existence causes.----D. McColl, Hamilton, Ont.
Truly guilty murderers should be executed, provided they understood what they did. The first woman executed by the U.S. government was Mary Surratt. I was inspired to write a book about her controversial hanging and the Lincoln assassination plot by Canada’s best-selling author of all time, Charles Chiniquy, Abraham Lincoln’s extremely close friend, who wrote of her trial and execution.----Paul Serup, Prince George, B.C.
I am in favour of capital punishment. Having been a police officer for 36 years and having seen too much of the handiwork of Canadian criminals, I believe those having committed first degree murder should be executed. Those found guilty would have ten years and no more to exhaust their appeals and this would give time for any evidence, even incontrovertible DNA evidence, to be presented to clear them. The recidivism would be zero.----Gary Godwin, Prince George, B.C.
In this debate I turn to the words of J.R.R. Tolkien: “Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.”----Alex Banks, Toronto.
Those who oppose the death penalty on the grounds that innocent people might be executed, are overlooking the fact that since it was abolished, over 800 innocent people have died at the hands of killers who were released, escaped or paroled. It may not be a deterrent, but its an effective preventive measure.----Woody Woodrow, Kelowna. B.C.
Yes. Against those in power who egregiously abuse their position and thereby undermine the public’ trust in the authorities. Say, a police chief also turns out to be working for organized crime. Or cops covering up crime by other police such as hiding the video evidence in the Robert Dziekanski case. Or a spy chief passing info to the enemy.----Vilmos Soti, North Vancouver, B.C.
I have always been in favour of the death penalty. I strongly believe that there would be less crime because, not only would we get rid of repeat offenders, but it would also scare other criminals from committing future acts, knowing they could lose their life. Furthermore, tax money now being used to support prisoners for many years behind bars could instead be allocated to much better causes in our society, such as environment, health and education.----Monica Cowan, Calgary.
Reintroducing capital punishment to Canada represents a step backwards for our legal system. Condemning a criminal to death row has proven to be an inaccurate science, where the validity of the conviction is never absolute. In addition to being an expensive alternative to incarceration, it fails to act as a sustainable mechanism to deter future criminal activity. More attention and correctional resources should be devoted to the rehabilitation of criminals, instead of towards their death.----Roger Hilton, Montreal.
The sadistic treatment meted out to Tori Stafford is the reason for the death penalty debate. If it were brought back, I shudder to contemplate the fate of the innocent people who were found guilty by bogus evidence of pathologist Dr. Charles Smith.----Elwan Lobo-Pires, Mississauga, Ont.
The death penalty should not be reinstated. Mot only is it unethical but the cost is ridiculous. A lengthy and expensive series of trials would be necessary for each case to ensure the verdict of guilty is definite, on top of the cost to actually administer the execution.----Sid Kelly, Bowmanville, Ont.
The moral argument for capital punishment is simple: If you take another’s life you forfeit your own. The legal argument is more difficult because juries make mistakes as do judges. Witnesses lie and then recant. Police fabricate evidence. I do not wish to live in a country where the state has the legal right to execute its citizens. It is better that the prison system is full than one innocent person be put to death.----Keith Brady, Empress, Alta.
While the execution of monsters may satisfy a certain segment of society, such a solution is short-sighted since those who are dead are beyond suffering. Better they be kept alive, but in conditions so unspeakably abysmal that even Papillon would be aghast. Let the monsters live, but ensure that they rot for a very long time to come. No to the death penalty; death is too easy an escape.----Mark Lavoie, Toronto.
Capital Punishment must never be reinstated. Apart from the injunction “Thou shalt not kill”, there is always a risk of putting to death an innocent person. What if 14-year-old Stephen Truscott had been hanged after that travesty of a trial, according to the sentence laid down by the presiding judge? There have been too many examples of executing innocent persons. Whatever the cost, incarceration for life is our only choice.----Mary McKim, London, Ont.
While I’m agnostic about the whole capital punishment issue, I have relatives who make some fair points. One says we need it because some people just don’t learn without it. Another wonders why, if capital punishment is not needed, we still need the term ‘repeat offender’.----Grant A. Brown, Edmonton.
I totally disagree with the retrograde step of re-introducing the death penalty. What I strongly feel should be considered is making the life sentence of 25 years a true life sentence for certain crimes that are so horrendous as to turn ones stomach just reading about them. These people should never be allowed to walk the streets again.----Ann Meiring, Calgary.
The death penalty does prevent repeat crimes but unfortunately does not prevent the injustice of executing the person who is not guilty.We have had several prominent examples of people wrongfully imprisoned for capital offenses who were later proven innocent. Particularly heinous crimes should instead lead to life imprisonment without parole and mean exactly that — imprisonment until death .----Leigh U. Smith, Burnaby, B.C.
It is time to bring back the death penalty for brutal murderers like the ones who killed Tori Stafford. We should ask ourselves if people like Clifford Olson or Paul Bernardo deserve to live at our expense.----Chuck Spencer, Bayfield, Ont.
Today you can’t go outside for a walk without being afraid that someone will pull you into the bushes mug, rape and even kill you. And it is worse when this happens to innocent little children. Why should the lowest scum on Earth get away with this?----Rosi Bisaro, Hamilton, Ont.
Canada should have never stop doing capital punishment. Having no deterrent to replace it was just naive.----Simha S. Mendelsohn, Toronto.
It’s time to bring back the death penalty for kidnappers, killers and rapists, especially for crimes involving young girls and boys. War and self defence are legitimate excuses for the taking of human life and it should be, also, for murderers, who fiendishly kill our most vulnerable.----Patrick Rosati, Montreal.
The death penalty is an effective crime deterrent in many instances, especially with crimes where the guilty has shown he is beyond any redemptive potential and needs to be put out of his own misery. The ideals of rehabilitation and recovery have serious limitations.---- Cyril Abraham, Whitby, Ont.
The Harper government should hold a national referendum on capital punishment as soon as possible, as it is the proper punishment for perpetrators of terrible crimes, such as what happened to Tori Stafford.----Merle Terlesky, Calgary.
(source: National Post)