Alan E. Sash was Invited by the New York Times to Publish an Invitation to a Dialogue on the Death Penalty
Sunday Dialogue: The Death Penalty
Published: October 1, 2011
Are some crimes so abhorrent that justice demands death?
The Letter to the Editor:
Re “An Indefensible Punishment” (editorial, Sept. 26):
The death penalty is not “immoral,” “grotesque” or “unjust.” Rather, it is a just punishment that should be reserved for the grotesque and immoral crimes that we hear and read about every day.
However, the administration of the death penalty is a different story. You correctly state that it is subject to arbitrariness, discrimination and other problems, including that mistakes are made.
The statistics do show that in our country a sentence of execution is more frequently given to minorities and the poor in certain geographic regions. DNA evidence has also proved that innocent people have been put on death row.
However, DNA can be used as both a sword and a shield. The same way that DNA exonerates the innocent, it should condemn the guilty, but only with additional safeguards, including eyewitness testimony, video surveillance and confessions that are subject to judicial oversight to test their reliability.
Without indisputable video surveillance or DNA evidence together with other forms of reliable evidence, a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole should be applied instead of the death penalty.
Chappaqua, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2011
The writer is a commercial litigation lawyer.