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Differing views on Blackmun's renunciation of death penalty

Re: Editorial, Feb. 25, Justice Blackmun's journey.

As one of the "anti-crime demagogues" who does not believe that the death penalty is constitutionally prohibited, I take exception to your Feb. 25 editorial 'ortraying Justice Harry Blackmun as a hero.

Those justices who choose not to follow Blackmun's lead are not, as you intimate, "favoring" or "advocating" the death penalty, but merely recognizing the inescapable fact that it is not prohibited by the Constitution. In fact, the Constitution, in several places, contemplates infliction of capital punishment, which raises the tautological question of whether the Constitution can be unconstitutional. The answer is obvious to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of logic, which I guess does not include Justice Blackmun and the editors of the Times.

Your suggestion that laws providing for the death penalty are a result of the "passing passions of public opinion" is simply inexplicable. The death penalty has been a part of American jurisprudence since our country's inception, except of course during that period when the Supreme Court struck it down. Justice Blackmun would employ the results of his own "intellectual journey" to strike down the laws of 36 states, laws passed as a result of the beliefs of "the great majority of Americans" and which in no way contravenes the Constitution. Justice Antonin Scalia would deny himself that arbitrary power. Yet Scalia's position is the one that "does violence to the constitutional democracy envisioned by Madison and Jefferson."

You must be reading from a different history book than I.

Douglas Mock, Brandon

Cheers for Harry Blackmun!

He may not, as he says, live to see his position against the death penalty triumph. I hope he will inspire other leaders with the courage to counter today's frenzy for blood.

I wish I could remember who stated in a newspaper article some years ago that it is society's function to contain the passions of the people and that the brutalization of society is promoted when the state gets into the killing business.

Politicians blanch at the thought of being labeled "soft on criminals." Let's not be soft. Let's be tough. Let's keep murderers in high security prison for life, but let's treat them humanely, not because they deserve it, but because society deserves it.

Ann Black, St. Petersburg

On Feb. 22, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun took a stand condemning capital punishment. His position, to say the least, was reprehensible, irresponsible and downright unworthy of a Supreme Court judge.

Blackmun's dastardly opinion fortunately will not deter the majority of the other Supreme Court justices. Crime in America has gone through the roof, getting worse day by day. Nothing could be more reassuring to the habitual criminal than to have read Blackmun's statement condemning capital punishment.

It is emphatically hoped he will have second thoughts and reverse his stand.

Frank W. Arrigo, Clearwater

That gentle man, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, has joined two of his former associates, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, in opposition to the death penalty on both constitutional and moral grounds.

The criticism directed toward Blackmun by columnist George Will is both petty and inaccurate. Blackmun will be both remembered and respected by the American people for his contributions to our system of jurisprudence. I cannot say the same for George Will.

Charles H. Hamblen, St. Petersburg

Eight Supreme Court justices and 70 percent of Americans are wrong. The St. Petersburg Times and one Supreme Court justice are politically correct.

When Justice Blackmun said the death penalty should be eliminated, the Times once again launched a crusade to support him. You saturate your paper with news on heinous crimes and create a climate of fear, then expect the public to embrace an indulgent attitude toward those on death row. Those who have been touched by the murder of a friend, neighbor or family member should have an opportunity to express their views on capital punishment.

Perhaps the public would agree with the Times if your editors offered an alternative of life in prison in solitary confinement with no chance for parole. The punishment then would come closer to fitting the crime. Meanwhile, those who wantonly kill should be denied membership in the human race by forfeiting their own life.

Jack Vanderbleek, St. Petersburg

Your recent editorial on Justice Blackmun's journey is a delightful discourse in fiction. He objects, not at all, to death via Roe vs. Wade but sheds crocodile tears for the convicted felon. Possibly some appearance on behalf of the justice would be in order as the jury convenes regarding Danny Rolling in Gainesville.

Joseph C. Rush, M.D., St. Petersburg

I would like to strongly disagree with the honorable justice. There is a solution to our crime wave, but it will never come to pass with people like Justice Blackmun.

Example: I was in Korea during the '50s. There was a Turkish Brigade located near our compound. The first Korean caught stealing from the Turks was strung up over the main gate. Guess what? There was not another theft there again; the Koreans got the message loud and clear. One man may have died, but many others lived as they wisely avoided that compound with theft in mind. The Americans were robbed blind and not one thief was dealt with, or punished strongly enough to deter others who stole from us.

If you get mad enough at an issue and have the guts to punish criminals, by death if need be, the others will eventually get the message. We have so many "bleeding hearts" who do everything for the criminals, and the poor victims are forgotten or even ignored.

Cruel punishment is going to be needed to deter cruel criminals. I don't see any other way.

Nicholas D'Onofrio, Holiday

What is the cost?

Re: Prosecutor named to look into Vince Foster suicide, Feb. 24.

From the above-named article, I glean:

1. Robert B. Fiske Jr., independent counsel re: Clintons' real estate investments.

2. Roderick C. Lankler, investigating Vince Foster's suicide.

3. Seven lawyers in a Little Rock office.

4. 25 FBI agents and financial analysts.

5. Offices in Little Rock, Washington, D.C. and New York.

6. Air travel between said offices.

I then assume cab fares, hotels, restaurants, phones, faxes, fax machines, copiers, computers, electric bills, rents, receptionists, secretaries, assorted office personnel, office supplies, etc., not to mention additional professional staff not mentioned in the article.

I don't see an alternative. Any other course of action would be viewed as a cover-up. But, really, does anyone know how much it is costing the American taxpayer to placate Bob Dole's desire for a witch hunt?

Theresa A. Rudd, Largo

Policeman 'doing his job'

The policeman who shot the 14-year-old was just trying to do his job. A crime was in progress and the criminals broke a glass door trying to escape. In that split second it sounded like a bullet. The policeman fired, thinking he was fired upon. It's simple.

It's also simple to say if you don't want this to happen to you, don't commit a crime. Period.

What is not so simple is how to explain away the many lives forever altered. Let's hope the parents don't exhaust their resources, emotional and financial, being angry at the wrong culprit.

It would be helpful to know what the other young burglar is thinking now, and who he is. (An unpopular idea, but one whose time has come.)

George Bork, St. Petersburg

I'm seething. Dominique Deming's father, Martin Osborne, is right. "This never should have happened," but I see it a lot differently. Let's at least get the story straight.

Make no mistake, the death of this 14-year-old is a gut-wrenching tragedy. Yes, it was preventable _ he was old enough to know right from wrong. By committing a crime he invited his own terribly senseless death. We have to get this message across: If you commit a crime, you will be held accountable and this may mean you'll cause your own hurt or imprisonment. Society hires and trains the police to help protect the public from you.

I've got no connections to any police department, but I must say your article's take on the 14-year-old who was shot while committing a repeat crime is outrageous. This was an incident of someone returning to his previous crime site to repeat a crime, being spotted by a police officer and being brought down in the act. He had a previous police record of 15 crimes!

This is not an incident as you portray it: "He went to the warehouse to get some comic books." No: He returned to the scene of his previous crime in order to steal.

Criminals, kids included, need to get this straight: It's risky to commit a crime. You may not only get caught, you may get killed by a police officer who only has a fraction of a second to judge whether you will kill him/her first. The situation is probably dark and uncertain, but you created it. You caused the officer to risk life and limb as part of the job in order to protect life and property of others. By your own acts, you caused yourself to be wounded, killed, or taken into custody _ no one else caused it, no matter how you try to twist the facts.

My heart goes out to the parents, absolutely, and in their grief it's impossible for them to see it this way. But the rest of us must start standing up for the often-thankless job the police do. My heart goes out to them and to the officer who fired the shot because his life will be made hell now, for an act that was truly preventable by the one who caused it.

Mildred Knowlton, North Redington Beach

My heart goes out to Dominique Deming's father, who evidently had tried to raise a son under difficult circumstances. And he is right, this never should have happened. It appears the police officer used poor judgment, firing into a building without having a clear target. But, "It never should have happened" for some other reasons, too. Dominique Deming should never have been in that warehouse. So before he becomes another "poor unfortunate victim," let's put some things in perspective.

This was not a situation where an otherwise innocent juvenile wandered into the premises by accident. This was the second time he had burglarized the place. Dominique Deming knew exactly what he was doing. If he did not know how highly criminal his actions were, this is not the fault of the police or anyone else.

According to FS 810.02, burglary is a felony of the first, second or third degree with punishments ranging from life to five years imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. This is a serious crime, not some juvenile prank. Hardened criminals perpetrate crimes such as this. Police officers know they can be killed in this type of situation and are certainly on edge. Anyone who can read a newspaper and has any kind of common sense whatsoever, should know this was a dangerous thing to do.

There's a valuable lesson here, kids. Crime is a serious matter. The police carry guns and they are trained to kill. Don't try this at home. Don't try this at all.

Gregory J. D'Amario, St. Petersburg

Reagan 'one of the greatest'

Re: Wimps in Congress, letter to the editor, Feb. 19.

I attended the dinner for Ronald Reagan and I can assure the letter writer that I am not wealthy. I met several school teachers and retired military people as well and I can assure you that they were not wealthy.

What the letter writer failed to mention is that the money which did come in was donated by thousands of people who feel the same as I do, that Ronald Reagan will go down in history as one of the greatest presidents we have ever had.

As for Reagan's role in the Iran-Contra affair which the letter writer claims he should have been impeached for, thank God that members of Congress found their backbone and rallied behind our great president.

Robert Fohrmeister, St. Petersburg

Using a heavy hand

An article published in the Jan. 24 St. Petersburg Times, (Turkey blasts rebel base in Iraq) just came to our attention. Although generally fair, this article still brings up a point that the West always tries to play against Turkey. The claim is the frustration of some Western states at human rights violations by the security forces against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) terrorists. Readers should realize that ethnic separatist terrorist activities taking place in certain parts of southeastern Turkey are carried out by the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK, supported and armed by certain neighbors of Turkey such as Syria, Iraq and Armenia. Most of the European governments acknowledged this fact recently and labeled PKK as a terrorist organization. However, some circles still claim that heavy-handed effort by Turkish security forces to suppress the PKK terrorist activities undermines freedom. We have difficulty understanding this logic. It is a state's responsibility to protect the freedoms of its citizens including the most basic freedom of all, the "freedom to live." Turkey has to be heavy handed with the PKK terrorists who undermine freedom by indiscriminate killing of men, women and children. They attack schools and hospitals with heavy weapons. They target doctors, teachers and journalists to create terror and disrupt daily life in southeastern Turkey. Elimination of such activities is crucially important to assure democracy in Turkey. There is no country in the world that will allow its unity to be destroyed by terrorist groups. And there is only one way to deal with the terrorists, and that is heavy handed.

Bulent Basol, President, Assembly of

Turkish American Associations, Washington, D.C.

Difficult to understand?

Re: Why does business remain hostile to health care reform? by Robert Reno, Feb. 21.

Mr. Reno just doesn't get it, does he? I wonder if he ever "made a payroll"? Not that employers are not interested in their health care costs, they simply do not want to be coerced into another government intrusion into their businesses; another invasion of their freedom. Why is this so difficult for these liberals to understand?

Don Kirby, Clearwater

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