Letter: The Price to Be Paid for Murder

To the Editor:

I was pleased to read in the Valley News of the governor-elect’s opinion that the death penalty should be banned in New Hampshire. There are many reasons for doing this, including the inhuman pressure it puts on the accused, the possibility that we may execute innocent people, the extraordinary cost of keeping those awaiting execution and the fact that the death penalty does not deter others from a life of crime.

But there are also positive outcomes that can arise from eliminating the death penalty. We do not advance the general safety of society by coming down hard on one person. Ideally, what we want to do is identify the underlying causes of aberrant behavior, so the tenor of society can be raised. Certainly, we have a sufficient number of offenders who have turned their lives around who can serve as role models. Perhaps, this is already being done and it is simply not widely known.

Medical science and psychology have advanced considerably in understanding who we are, how the brain functions, what can go wrong in genetic inheritance and how our own neighborhoods can foster criminal behavior. By using the advanced tools already at hand, we can start to understand what factors foster aberrant behaviors and begin to correct them.

There is yet another aspect that hardly anyone wants to look at. When a person is executed in our prisons, we have committed murder. There is always a price to be paid for murder. In this case, let me quote a retired prison warden whose story was published in the Valley News on Aug. 13, 2010, when he urged a New Hampshire commission studying capital punishment to stop the practice, saying the memories of those he has put to death haunt him. “The state has no right to ask people to kill others on (its) behalf.”

Robert F. Strauss