Re: Doug Ireland’s “Pelosi’s Problems” [November 15–21]. How refreshing to read an in-depth critique of a Democrat, particularly a Democrat who is female, more liberal and vocal than most in Washington, from California, has some power and clout, and is relatively free of the political taint clinging to Bush appeasers like Dick Gephardt. I certainly don’t read enough negative press about Democrats in the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, CNN, ABC or other major media outlets. Thanks, L.A. Weekly and Doug Ireland, for your dedication to “alternative” political coverage.
Kudos for Sara Catania’s latest foray into the dungeons of America’s death-penalty system [“A Third Repreive,” November 15–21]. Her article portraying Marcelino Ramos’ life was a stirring drama of soul-crushing childhood neglect, severe mental retardation and a tragic association with a career criminal who testified that he — not Ramos — belonged on death row for the senseless murder of Taco Bell clerk Kathryn Parrott. Too bad your headline and photo caption didn’t reflect a similar gravitas. “Is he retarded? Does it matter?” you ask beneath Ramos’ mug shot. It does — even to the ultraconservative U.S. Supreme Court. As Ms. Catania points out, the court ruled this year that executing people with mental retardation constituted a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Ramos’ IQ has been measured between 62 and 75, within the range of mentally retarded. Yet your headline declares him “one of California’s most notorious death-row inmates” (with 612 people on death row, Ramos’ single, unpremeditated murder hardly places him in that category), and chastises him for appealing for his life a third time. Would you stop appealing for your life if the Supreme Court just declared your sentence “cruel and unusual”?
We have an effective alternative to state killing in California — life sentence without possibility of parole (LWOP). More than 2,500 murderers have been sentenced to LWOP and only one released, when he was proved innocent. With LWOP, no one has to take on the gruesome task of determining who’s smart enough to be executed, or cruel and unusual enough to do it.
—Mike Farrell, President Lance Lindsey, Executive Director
Death Penalty Focus