- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 18, 2004

Questions raised by Peterson trial

Two questions were not answered in Scott Peterson’s murder trial (“Peterson has many avenues for an appeal, analysts say,” Nation, Wednesday).

First, the Peterson case has shown that killing an unborn child, whether willfully or accidentally, can result in a conviction of first- or second-degree murder. If a mother wants the child, then it’s defined by law as murder, but if she does not want the child, then she can legally abort the child without any criminal ramification and go to a taxpayer-funded abortion clinic. Very interesting.

Biologically speaking, life for humans or animals begins at conception. No scientist can without political bias dispute that fact, regardless of what the law says. By being able to get a conviction of murder for an unborn child and legally being able to abort an unwanted child, the pro-choice movement can have its cake and eat it, too. Deciding who can live and die is something our society will pay for dearly. Human life will not be worth much anymore.

Second is the inconsistent manner in which the death penalty is carried out in this country. The standards vary from state to state. Does that make states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin better or safer than states such as Texas? I’d like to see how many potential criminal acts were prevented by executions in that state.

With very few exceptions, I don’t support the death penalty except for very few exceptions. The Peterson case does not fit in that mold. Mark Fuhrman, a noted criminal analyst who is a regular on Fox News, did not agree with the sentence for Peterson.

Our society is legally sanctioning the taking of human life. When deciding on taking human life, the highest form of scrutiny has to be observed and all other means exhausted before we grant the ultimate sentence, regardless of whether it’s an adult or a child. Remember, there is no way of bringing life back once it’s taken … unless you are God.

TIMOTHY DUN

Woodbridge

Google: The ultimate library

At first blush, Google’s far-reaching plan to encode the wisdom of five great contemporary libraries into its vast web may seem to be but a bold extension of America’s communications technology (“Google hits the books,” Nation, Wednesday).

On reflection, though, it becomes clear that this is nothing less than recapturing the dream of Alexander the Great, who founded the most famous library of antiquity in Alexandria, Egypt, in the third century B.C. This repository of knowledge from all the “known world” continued until its tragic destruction in the third century A.D.

In the recent past, some American academics referred to our Library of Congress as the modern Alexandria Library, but surely Google’s dream is a more exact parallel. Long live scrolls, manuscripts, books and Web sites.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Chevy Chase

Lesson on Bill of Rights

I was a bit bewildered by Rick Lynch’s view of the Bill of Rights (“Giving away our freedoms,” Op-Ed, Wednesday). Contrary to his assertion that the Bill of Rights has given away our freedoms, he has it exactly backward, in my view.

Absent the Bill of Rights, there would have been an even bigger power grab by the legislative and executive branches. Even conceding his point about a federal government of “enumerated” powers, I simply do not see how he gets from that power-limiting enumeration to a wholly unwarranted dismissal of the Bill of Rights’ enumeration of rights and powers, which was also specifically tailored as a check on federal powers.

To the extent that Mr. Lynch has a valid criticism, it is with the courts and Congress, not the Constitution. The Constitution does not limit rights to those spelled out in the Constitution. Mr. Lynch’s comments ignore the Ninth and 10th amendments. The Ninth, in particular, was critical to passage of the first 10 amendments and thus ultimately to the passage of the Constitution itself.

The Ninth Amendment states, in its entirety: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The list of rights in the Constitution was expressly not exhaustive. Attempting to “disparage” other rights merely because they are not listed is also constitutionally prohibited. There may be reasons to deny existence of a particular “right,” but the failure to be listed in the Bill of Rights is not a valid constitutional objection.

Similarly, the 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The effect of this amendment is to limit the federal government to only those powers enumerated in the Constitution, preserving all other powers to the states or the people. Scholars have described this view of government as one of “islands” of federal powers surrounded by a “sea of individual rights.” This is an apt analogy. Mr. Lynch’s view of the Bill of Rights seems to be one of islands of individual rights beset by a rising tide of federal powers.

Unfortunately, many conservatives and liberals alike have for years ignored these two amendments. I hope the tide is turning. Mr. Lynch’s view is the one held by the Federalists at the time of passage of the Constitution.

They disdained any need for a Bill of Rights, given the enumeration in the Constitution of limited powers to the federal government. Although the Federalists may be excused for not knowing what the next two centuries would bring, Mr. Lynch has seen new continents of federal power daily threaten individual rights.

How best to secure individual rights? For starters, re-integrate the Ninth and 10th amendments into constitutional discourse. Many conservatives tend to trivialize the Ninth Amendment in a mistaken belief that it inevitably undermines “strict constructionism” by opening the door to unfettered constitutional interpretation by the courts. Such a view might have some credibility but for the fact that over its history the Ninth Amendment has largely been ignored. In my view, conservatives who today fail to heed the words of the Ninth Amendment do so at their peril and at the peril of the very method they champion, strict constructionism.

Denying or deprecating the Bill of Rights only further imperils whatever rights we still retain as a free people.

PAUL W. KNOTH

Chantilly

In his otherwise excellent column on the Bill of Rights, Rick Lynch makes the following statement: “When the framers wrote our Constitution, their strategy for safeguarding liberty against government encroachment was really quite simple — they would list, specify and detail the few and defined rights of the federal government.”

Wrong. The concept of rights in the Constitution is described in terms of individuals, never in terms of the government. As the Declaration of Independence states, rights derive from the Creator, and governments derive their powers “from the Consent of the Governed.”

The founders would have had to have subscribed to the “divine right” theory to have conceived of a government having rights. Clearly, they did not.

ROGER JOHNSON

Kensington

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