- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

Amnesty on the death penalty

The Washington Times recently published two articles recognizing increasing opposition to the death penalty in both the United States and abroad, “Mandatory death penalty ruled unjust” (World, June 16) and “Bishops renew their opposition to death penalty” ( Page 1, June 17). Such coverage highlights the groundswell of public support for abolition of this ultimate violation of human rights.

Amnesty International has established the eradication of the death penalty as a priority. Many countries already have demonstrated their commitment to the rights of all (worldwide, more than 120 countries have outlawed capital punishment), but the violation of the right to life continues here in the United States.

Our nation has one of the highest execution rates worldwide despite the fact that innocent people are released from death row on a regular basis. By continuing the practice of state-sanctioned killing, the United States is in clear violation of the UniversalDeclarationof Human Rights.

The death-penalty system is arbitrary and unjust and has not been proved to deter crime. Since 1977, the overwhelming majority of death row defendants (more than 80 percent) have been executed for killing white victims, although blacks make up about 50 percent of all homicide victims. Additionally, the poor are more likely to be executed — 95 percent of people sentenced to death could not afford their own attorney. Most disturbing is that more than 100 persons have been exonerated from death row, having served years in prison for crimes they did not commit. The thought of executing innocent people at the hands of our government ought to give us all pause.

Amnesty International continues to call on the United States to eradicate the death penalty on federal and state levels. Abolition of capital punishment is essential to establishing a criminal justice system that respects life and fundamental human rights. It is in our nation’s best interests to demonstrate that we uphold these values as inviolable.

ANNE SNOUCK-HURGRONJE

Amnesty International

Local Coordinator, Group #536

Adams Morgan

Washingto2

Drug-approval process critical

Robert Goldberg’s June 14 Op-Ed column, “Accelerate drug approval,” is a distorted attack on Rep. Edward J. Markey’s efforts to make sure the Food and Drug Administration not only helps important drugs get on the market quickly, but also sees to it that those drugs are studied later to ensure that they are truly effective and bring more benefit than harm to patients.

Consumers Union, the nonprofit, independent publisher of Consumer Reports, believes we can — and should — do both.

Mr. Goldberg wrongly suggests that asking about safety will somehow destroy the development of important new drugs. We disagree. Studying drugs once they are on the market simply ensures that they do what the manufacturer promised. Ignoring this important follow-up can have dire consequences — in the case of Vioxx, for example, thousands of Americans were harmed needlessly or died because early safety warnings were not pursued by the FDA.

Would Mr. Goldberg argue for the quick approval and mass marketing of new aircraft designs but argue against safety studies if the planes started crashing?

We hope your readers will support efforts by Sens. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican; Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat; Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican; and others that are similar to the Markey proposal: If a drug gets quick approval and the drug maker promises to do follow-up studies, the company ought to keep its word.

WILLIAM VAUGHAN

Senior policy analyst

Consumers Union

Washington

Reflection on Sgt. Gaughan

The shooting death of Prince George’s County Police Sgt. Steven F. Gaughan is a tragic loss to his family, the police department and the community at large (“Slain PG officer lauded,” Metropolitan, Sunday).

Though I was not personally acquainted with Sgt. Gaughan, I share the deep loss — as a colleague — in the Prince George’s County criminal justice system. From all I have heard about Sgt. Gaughan, he was the kind of professional with whom I would have been proud to have been acquainted and someone I would have welcomed as a friend.

His family can take pride in his dedication to his job in law enforcement, coupled with his professionalism in carrying out his assigned duties, as they experience the grieving process and their enduring loss.

Sgt. Gaughan’s wit and sense of humor should serve as a reminder to us all that, despite the serious nature of the criminal justice business, we must take time to smile, laugh and recognize that there are good things in life amidst the adversity that life offers.

Sgt. Gaughan’s death also should serve as a painful reminder to people everywhere that on a daily basis, police officers put their lives on the line for the protection of the community and individual safety.

Their role can never be taken for granted. Unfortunately, police officers also can become victims of crime, and their families are impacted by the secondary victimization and the permanent loss that ensues as a consequence.

Fellow police officers and colleagues in the system are greatly affected by the loss of a police officer. It brings home the fact that life, in all respects, is precious and that we should all appreciate one another and cherish the relationships — both professional and personal — that we maintain in our lives.

Sgt. Gaughan was one who was appreciated by many and cherished by his family and friends. Shared recollections and fond memories of his life will be the comfort that will enable the criminal justice community to move forward in continuing their pursuit of the administration of justice with unrelenting fervor.

KAREN L. BUNE

Victim specialist, legal assistant

State’s Attorney’s Office

Prince George’s County

The coming judicial battle

Eugene Hickok’s Commentary column discusses the Reagan administration’s dealings with a vacancy in the Supreme Court (“As the vacancy nears,” Commentary, yesterday). The electorate will soon see a spectacle in Congress that should both entertain and disgust.

It will be entertaining because those of us who care about the process will be watching very closely. It will be disgusting because of the disinformation and vile partisanship that certainly will be manifested.

Regardless of who prevails in this battle, liberal or conservative, it is in the interest of honesty, and informing the American electorate, that certain points need to be made.

First, it should be understood, and in no uncertain terms, that there is no requirement for “balance” on that court. There is no rule or law that states that a retiring conservative justice needs to be replaced by another conservative justice so that a state of equilibrium is maintained.

If that were, in fact, the case, that court would be stagnant and would never be able to change to reflect the will of the people — and that is absurd.

Recently, the electorate has seen fit to elect a conservative president and has provided him with a similarly conservative Congress. Can anyone who is capable of a logical thought process construe that as meaning that the electorate would want the president to take the Supreme Court in any direction but conservative?

No, the electorate fully expects President Bush to nominate conservative justices to fill any vacancies on the Supreme Court that occur during his administration.

Most certainly, the liberals will deny that and will use the ruse that a “balance” must be maintained, and that, quite simply, is not a fact.

ROBERT DI STEFANO

Abingdon, Md.


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