Life or Death

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Without a doubt, the scheduled January 17 execution of 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen is a controversial topic. His crime unthinkable — the ordered execution of four — and his medical condition (legally blind, diabetes and in a wheelchair) profoundly different from all those executed before him. He has been on California's death row for more than 20 years. Two nights ago we had his lawyer on. Tuesday night we had the prosecutor. Allen's clemency petition sits on the desk of the California governor and now we wait and watch.

I went to our show e-mail account and pulled (and posted below) e-mails on the topic of his execution. I did not try and get an equal number on each side of the hotly debated topic — rather I just kept grabbing each one I saw. To the extent that there are more favoring execution or not is simply because those are the ones e-mailed to me and the ones I saw first. So do not assume some agenda by the postings.

Here are the e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

Dear Greta and the "On the Record" production staff,
I watched in disbelief last night as the term "wheelchair-bound" was used repeatedly during your discussion about the San Quentin inmate. I expect a news agency such as FOX to use more professional language. Wheelchair-bound is an inappropriate and offensive word that is outdated. It has negative connotations and shows a lack of sensitivity on your part. In the future, please show some respect for wheelchair users through proper language. Very disappointing!
Cleveland, OH

E-mail No. 2

As one who is against the death penalty, and also live in California, (and not too far from San Quentin) I have to make a comment: For those who are also against the death penalty, the case of Tookie Williams and also this 70-something man who is scheduled next, I think both are poor examples (in other words, "poster boys") for stopping it. There have to be more sympathetic people on Death Row than these two. In Tookie's case, yes he wrote some children's books, but he never really quit hanging with his gang-member buddies; never tried to change his attitude towards the guards; never helped law enforcement stop gang activities. As far as this elderly man goes, I don't think he'll get a whole lot of sympathy considering his crimes and the cost now of keeping this very ill person alive won't help in the sympathy department.
It's an extremely sad situation. As I said, I am against the death penalty, but if this state is going to have it, why does it take at least five years just to get an appellate attorney assigned to a Death Row inmate? Does California have any answers for these delays? Is the public aware that it costs the state more for a death penalty inmate than it does for a "life without parole" inmate?
Kathleen McSherry
Manteca, CA

E-mail No. 3

It seems to baffle me all the time how people tend to forget the real victims and turn the convicted into a "victim." The convicted is a victim of his/her own actions. As for the death penalty, Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law, not change it. The biblical law says if that if a person is found guilty of murder to send them to the Father to be judged. I believe this crosses over many religions and is often neglected today. Christians struggle with forgiveness in these circumstances. Yes we can forgive but God's law must still be fulfilled. I do not expect this to get posted on your blog or program. If we would go back to the laws and principles this country was founded on, we would have a much better judicial system. This is what happens when left wing liberals in the judicial get involved. The system starts to make no sense.
Thanks for your time. Have a Happy and prosperous New Year.
Steve Purple

E-mail No. 4

New plan for those who are sentenced to death for the heinous crimes that they have committed: Give them 18 months to prepare any and all of their appeals. Nothing more. Let anyone and everyone who want to participate in the appeal process have their say. Once this last chance play has failed, execute the person the next day. Those who are against the death penalty are just trying to wear down the American public and bankrupt the court system. This way, they would have to have a sense of urgency. Once they loose, the second time, it is over. We would save 100's of millions of dollars, those who commit their crimes would be punished and the friends and families would have closure.
Steve Hansen

E-mail No. 5

I was for the death penalty until I got back into being a practicing Christian again. Anyone that claims to be Christian should have a hard time advocating killing anyone, let him or her that is without sin cast the first stone. Death is not a deterrent, when people commit most crimes they don't think about the consequences. I don't like paying taxes to house criminals forever but if that is what I have to do to live the life that Jesus would want then so be it! I really enjoy your e-mails and when I get a chance to see your show. Merry CHRISTmas and have a happy new year!
William Crouch

E-mail No. 6

I do think that the execution of a 70-year-old blind man in a wheelchair is wrong despite what crime he had committed in the past. Did the punishment fit the crime 25 years ago when he was young and healthy? I believe it did. But now? Not so convinced. The man can do no more harm to anyone. He's blind and bound to a wheelchair and in prison and locked up away from society... for him... that is probably more punishment than anything else. Mind you, I think the acts of murder he committed were atrocious and horrible and my heart goes out to his victims of such inhumane cruelty. His punishment should have been carried out a long, long time ago. What good are the punishments of our justice system if they aren't carried out for years and years? Is sentencing someone to death, and allowing them to live a quarter of a century, a deterrent for others wanting to murder? Apparently not... seeing that such atrocities still continue in the U.S. day after day. Those murderers on Death Row didn't give their victims a chance to live another 25 years... so why should our justice system give them the chance to live another 25 years? Yes, from time to time an innocent person is sentenced to death... I realize an execution cannot be carried out immediately and I do agree in having an appeals process... but 25 years is ridiculously long. There should be a set time limit for how long one can be on Death Row before their execution is carried out. Five years maximum for those who have overwhelming, undeniable physical evidence against them (i.e. DNA, fingerprints) and 10 years maximum for those who only have circumstantial evidence against them (i.e. Scott Peterson.) I wonder if grounding my son when he is 38 for cursing when he was 13 will deter him, or his siblings, from cursing ever again...
Kim Havelock

E-mail No. 7

As a Christian, I find it disturbing and sad for someone to casually use the term "God bless" and declare himself as heartless as the man from Pratt, AL, did in his e-mail to you. To me, this is taking God's name in vain since the writer doesn't seem to have sincere Christian beliefs if he admits he is heartless.
Sylvia Mills
Chattanooga, TN

E-mail No. 8

Hello Greta,
On the 76-year-old blind man convicted of murder what possible Good can come from his execution? Nothing! No closure for the family! It will not bring back the people he supposedly murdered either! Isn't their enough death in the world already? Why do we have to be a nation that executes, locking a person in a cage is the worst forum of torture a human can experience! I know I have been there! Taking his sight from him even if he is legally blind is a torture too I know I have been there and am still there! It is a struggle each day and will be the rest of a blind person's life! Anyone who say's differently is a liar! He is suffering enough! Executing him will not help our nation or the world be any better a place! People do change and he is definitely no threat to society any longer! California should show mercy to this man! The nation should show mercy the death penalty should be abolished worldwide!
Eric B. Rice
Beardstown, IL

E-mail No. 9

My opinion on this subject (blind/wheelchair inmate facing execution) is the fact that what he is today (blind and disabled) is irrelevant to what he did 25 years ago. He committed murder and now the state of California will require his life (eye for an eye.) That's the law and that's the just and right punishment. The waiting sooo long to put these criminals to death is the problem. Why can't we change this appeals law?
I am in favor of the death penalty, I wish our state of Minnesota had it. My only objection is to how gentle and human they do it... in many cases I would like to see the criminal be put to death the same manner in which he killed — especially child killers.

E-mail No. 10 — This e-mail relates to the police shooting in New Orleans on Monday:

I do not understand why police cannot use a net in cases like the one in NO, the man with a knife. Seems the police could fire, throw, or run with a net to incapacitate someone holding a knife if no one is in imminent danger of being stabbed or cut by the person.
Cape Girardeau, MO

E-mail No. 11

I'm amazed and appalled by the readers' response to the upcoming execution of a 76 year old. What is ironic is that if you post a question tomorrow asking readers/viewers their opinion of abortion, they will all tell you they are "pro-life" and that abortion is wrong because it is murder. Protected by pro-lifers during nine months in a uterus, then we're on our own. Perhaps a good source of cannon fodder for "pre-emptive" wars.
Erin Cohen
Hollywood, FL

E-mail No. 12

Man with a knife shot down in New Orleans. Ten plus cops and seven shots fired. A little overkill I say. Whatever happened to rubber bullets, beanbag charges and least lethal of all, those new nets that could have rendered the man harmless?
Steve Brute
Las Vegas, NV

E-mail No. 13

So Clarence Ray Allen is old and feeble. Too bad none of his victims had the chance to grow old.
Diane Kelson

E-mail No. 14

Should a blind, old, wheelchair-bound man be executed for crimes committed 25 years ago? Yep. He wasn't blind, old or wheelchair-bound when he committed these crimes. Too bad the citizens of California have had their tax dollars pay his living and medical expenses these many years. With DNA, forensics, etc., it is possible to determine guilt or innocence beyond any doubt in some cases. One and only one appeal should be allowed. Public executions should still be held, and the method of execution should be the method of death of the innocent victim. For example, Susan Smith, a South Carolina mother, strapped her two small sons in their car seats, let the car roll in a lake and drowned her children. Susan Smith should have gotten the death penalty and she should have been strapped in a car and rolled in a lake. Firing squads, guillotines, hemlock, whatever it takes to do the job are OK with me. A few public hangings out in front of the courthouse might make some people think twice before taking an innocent life. I'm tired of these dredges of society getting their three hots and a cot on my dime.
Barbara Bynum
Rock Hill, SC

E-mail No. 15

Greta, my name is Robert, I was a good friend of Brian that testified against Clarence. I just so happened to see the interview on your program with Ward Campbel, California D.A. I did not know that it was going to be on your program. I'm 51 and this brought tears to my eyes thinking of the memories that Brian and I had together. Brian's mother and father — Ray and Fran — have both passed on I'm sad to say. They were both very nice people, you would have loved them both. My heart goes out to Brian's sister, the only one left in that family. I wish Ray and Fran could have seen this person put to death. Every time that Ray and I would talk, it would hurt me to see the pain in his eyes even years after Brian's death, God I miss them. The D.A. also never told you that a lot of the Rocha family is on a hit list if he is put to death. My wife works with one of the family members, which has told her of this. The person that killed the three in the Frans Market murders is also on death row also, I hope he makes it to the chamber too. I hope that Clarence lives long enough to die by lethal injection and I wish I was the one of the people there to watch him die. Greta, please don't let these two killers get away without receiving their sentences of death. Look at all the time you put into Scott Peterson's case, please stay on top of this on your program they both deserve to die.
Thank you for your time and I hope you actually read this e-mail. My wife and I both watch your program darn near everyday, keep up the good work.
Thank you,
Robert Cotner

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