US politicians should follow example of Illinois Governor

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 12:00am

The article by Greg Torode headlined, 'Death penalty too popular to take on' (South China Morning Post, June 8), misses one particular point on the popularity of the death penalty - that the percentage of voters who favour the death penalty drops off considerably when they are asked to reconsider their stance if they can be sure that a life sentence would mean just that.

It is sad to see elected officials, or those seeking election, still falling over themselves to be hardline death-penalty proponents in order to make themselves appear tough on crime.

Al Gore and the other waverers should have more faith in the US voters and give them a true choice on this matter. Many of those who favour executions do not believe that it deters crime: rather they are rightly expressing their horror at some of the horrendous crimes taking place. But the death penalty is not the answer.

Several studies have established that the prevalence of the death penalty does not deter crime and countries that have abolished the death penalty have not seen a rise in crime.

While George W. Bush claims to be certain that all 130 people put to death in Texas under his Governorship were guilty, the reality is he cannot be.

His fellow Republican, Illinois Governor George Ryan, who recently proclaimed a moratorium on the death penalty in his state amid evidence that some of those executed were innocent, has voiced open scepticism that executions will resume in this midwestern US state while he remains in office.

Mr Ryan's action in January came in light of new evidence that led to the exoneration of 13 death row inmates.

Politicians across the US should follow the example set by Governor Ryan, who, being a Republican, can hardly be accused of being a 'bleeding heart liberal'.

LIZ WHITELAM Death Penalty Campaign Section Amnesty International Hong Kong