Pubdate: Fri, 02 Jan 2004
Source: Ledger, The (FL)
Copyright: 2004 The Ledger
Author: Homer Ashley Spencer, Jr.


Virginia M. Watson encourages us, at Christmastime, to rejoice that
our tax dollars fund the death penalty ["Execution Worthwhile,"
letter, Dec. 21]. Christ offered forgiveness through the sacrifice of
his life accomplished by capital punishment combined with a
miscarriage of justice. As recipients of this gift, should we work to
continue capital punishment? To eliminate it? Or at least its
combination with injustice?

Mary proclaims of God: "With his powerful arm he has routed the proud
of heart. He has pulled the princes from their thrones and exalted the
humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich
away empty."

Increasingly the poor cannot afford justice. Wade Goodwyn (National
Public Radio's "All Things Considered," Dec. 16) reported on more than
80 innocent Texans convicted of drug possession.

Informants, paid for the amount of cocaine involved, ordered cases of
billiard chalk to plant on poor defendants. The public defenders never
asked for lab tests -- only when families of some defendants spent
their life savings for lawyers did the scam come to light. Have public
defenders become facilitators to what Goodwyn calls "the subtle but
profound power of the state to move poor defendants through the . . .
legal system and into prison?"

DNA testing makes possible "proof of innocence" in some cases. Yet,
Florida imposed a deadline on justice, even capital cases, decided
prior to its availability. The Innocence Project reported 50 viable
cases still pending as the deadline to apply for testing approached.

Our government has assumed the power to arrest using clandestine
warrants, locking suspects away indefinitely, without charges or
counsel. Are we so far advanced beyond Caesar, with our hypodermic
nails and gurney cross?

Homer Ashley Spencer, Jr., Auburndale
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