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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 23, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta Tundar, January 13, 1971 THE LFTHMIDGE HttAtD 5 The great capita punishment debate By Jim Flshbocme HeraJd itaff writer The notion that Man should not kill other men is a compar- ptively new one. As far back as record or reasoned conjec- ture can take is, fce has inflict- ed death on those he thought deserved it. or who happened to be in his way. When he formed his first state, primitive thou'h It was, he gave it the unques- tioned right lo take the life of any who threatened, defied or opposed it. He gave it a clear duty. ico. to protect its own, at the cost of lives, if neces- sary. The Old Testament certainly makes no b o n es about the state's duty to say nothing of its right to kill. Neighboring states, any non-citizens, and all nee-believers were fair game at any time: whole chapters are little more than recitals of the deeds of slaughter. Erring citizens were slain, too. In bib- lical Israel, for instance, there were 36 capital crimes, each with a prescribed method of ex- ecution. Stoning to death was decreed for some IS offences, burning for 10. strangulation for six and beheading for the other two. That was before the >ew Disper-saiJon. of course, tut cot before [he Ten Com- mandments had been given to the Children o! Israel. As civilization (as we call ill developed, the only real change Man made in his attitude to- wards killing has been to find more reasons for doing it. In Britain, whence we derive our notion; of legality and civiliza- tion, there at one time over 200 capital crime? in the 3S year reign of Henry VTII over 72.000 thieves were hung and ths English weren't es- pecially bloodthirsty, by Euro- pean standards at any rate. For the past couple of cen- turies, there has been wide de- bate pn the subject of capital punishment, with more and more countries deciding to drop 11 altogether. Even those that retain it have abandoned the age-old practice of carrying out executions in public, where the deterrent effect might be txpected to be greatest. By 1939, when for the last time the guillotine performed its lethal work before a Paris croud, France had been for half a cen- tury the only modern slate to dispatch its criminals in public. The Canadian situation Canada inherited the British common, law, which provided that murderers should be put to death by hanging. That was the law of land for Canada's first 95 years. Just over 10 years ago. early on the morning of December 1932, two convicted murderers were positioned back lo back on the gallows trapdoor in Toron- to's Don Jail and dropped to their deaths. No sentence of death has been executed in Can- sda since that morning. Can- ada's law still prescribes the death penalty for murder, but for five years after December 1962. while the courts regu- larly passed sentences of death, b ever.- casa (he cabirer ese.r- ctsed its right to intervene, and CDmmuied each sentence to life imprisonmert. In December 1967. the gov- errment proofed that for a five-year trial period a disdnc- tim be made between capi'al and non-capital murder, the capital crime to be the killim; of a policeman or prison guard and to be punishable by death, all other murders to be non- capiial crimes, punishable tv irr.nrisonmem. usually a life tevm. Parliament approved, by a vote of 114 to 87; it was a ''free vote." oue w which mem- bers are permitted to vo'.e as t'ney please, without considera- tion for part.- politics. During the five-year trial per- iod there were 17 convictions for cauita] murder. In each case the death sesterce WLIS passed, and in each case tre cabinet intervened and com- muted it to one of imprison- ment. The trial period, such as it was. is now over, and until Parliament takes action in the matter, the law of Canada is that all murder, whoever the victim, is punishable by dea-.h. The government has proposed a further five-year renewal of the arrange m e n t described above, as a further trial of the concept of distinguishing be- tween capital and non-capital murder. Again the matter is to be decided by a free vote. Members have several pos- sible choices. They may simply reject whatever motion is put them, which will result in the deaih penalty lor all murders remaining the law of the land. An alternative would be to ndopt an amendment, said to be in the making, to the deaih penalty en- tirely. Another possibility is to continue the present arrange- ment, but with some amend- ment, for instance that death sentences be imposed not oaJy for killing policemen and prison puards but for certain other of- fences as well. Offences that have been mentioned in this connecuon are murder in the commission of G'.'-er crimes, second offences i-f murder, unusually vicious killings, or political assassina- The real issue, however, is simple one of whether or rot Canada should retain the per-alty. regardless of the details. Ard at this point, all (hat can be said with any confi- ticree is that the issue, will be clettided subjectively, on the basis of emotion, rather than rATior. Wh} Simply because among the arguments that are put fr.'WErd. by who favor and by those who opDOse the penalty, there is none (hat is not sutrectiie. and few that are not wholly emotional. Opinions are abundant: facts practically non-existent. And even the few meagre facts that do exist are interpreted to please whoever cites them. The ease for refenfion Stripped of the obscuring rhetoric that almost inevitably accompanies them, three main arguments are presented by those who viish to retain tha death penalty. They are: 1. that the fear of execution deters an unknown but consid- erable number who might oth- erwise commit murder; 2. that the existence of the death penalty enables prison guards and policemen to per- form their duties with reason- able assurance of survival; 2. that it is an appropriate treatment for murderers, be- cause those who kill fully de- serve to be killed in turn. Deference argument Noae of these "reasons" stands up to close scrutiny. First, regarding deterrence, there is very little data, though a great deal is made oi it. It is claimed that the significant rise in the rate of murder since the death penalty was suspend- ed is dear evidence that Ihe fear of death deters would-be murders. The figures seem impressive. T'iTey show that for seven years before the partial ban imposed a: the end of 1967. there were 22? murders annually, on the average. For the four years 1968 to 1972 the annual average was 376. with 1971 listing a resort number of 422 murders. But while those figures are convincing to the retentionists. o.'hers demur. They point to the substantial increase in copula- tion, to society's growing toler- ance for all forms of violence, lo more frequent oi mass or multiple-murder, to equal or even greater in the incidence of murder in jurisdictions where the death parfllty is sSl! irj force, to tie historical fact that capital crimes were even more com- mon when executions were an almost daily occurrence. Most non-partisan evarjadon or the evidence leans to the be- lief that while the is less than overwhelming, it is probable that there are a num- ber to whom the threat of being hanged is a more effective de- terrent than the possibility of a long spell in prison. But it is even more likely that most murderers won't bs deterred by any prospective re- SYLBERTS CLOSE SALE CONTINUES ENTIRE STOCK MUST GO! Fantastic savings in men's, women's, children's O Dress Shoes 9 Casuals Sandals Snow Boots O Western Boots Gift Slippers NO EXCHANGES NO REFUNDS ALL SALES FINAL FINAL MARKDOWNS DOORS WILL CLOSE Saturday tribuuon, whatever its form or severity. In many cases violent pas- sion, such as fear, hafe, greed, jealousy or some other, will preclude any thought of punish- ment. A remarkable number of murderers commit suicide, loa; a generally accented figure is about 30 per cent of all those who commit murder. There are others who carefully plan their crimes in advance, and simp'y do not accept the possibility of getting caught. TTiere 15 r.o method of calculating the num- ber who so believe, bui at least ]5 per cent could in the belief, because that many are never apprehended. Of those caught and arraign- ed, another (hird are usually found to be either menially un- til to stand trial, or not giiij-.y by reason of insarJty. N'o reot. however drastic, is to influecce ihe blind with passion, the confident schem- er, the or these irJ-end- bg suicide Of the fetter remaind- er, a faT pi'oponion are fcurd not guilry on ihe evidence, so that all Qie calculadrg has been done, v.iih reasonab'e pl-O'ivancs for viiris- cicrional azd ciffer- eaces. the firsl figures indicate something less than of sll kmnvn" imr- derers actually sre convicted. These calculators can be ooe further. In Can- oda murder convictions usuaJly mean the death penalty, and most of the sentences are car- ried out (or were, before 19S3 but then there is a ose in five chance that the cabinet or fDTie'-hing else toll iaierveoe ar-d prevent the exec-Jtion, So in all. the odes are high against the Drospert n{ being hanged, aad thus heavijy a gainst there bein g ra uch de- terred value in the death pei> airy. Tne retMTionisa1 second point, that the existence oi a death penalty makes a police- man's or prison guard's life less hazardous, is really an ex- tension of the deterrent argu- ment, tviih particular features that really don't make it any more cogent. Conceding that coaTinuous contact wiih mur- derers and oJier crimmp-is can be dangerous, it rail must be noted that there are other dan- gercros occupations, bu: few- for which Fpecicl provision is mace in the criimns! lair. die in fires, but the careless- ness that causes most fires is Eeldom punished at all. let by hanging. Members of t he armed forces train wi: h and and it is normal iha; a number die year in trahire acci- eve.i in Lives los: in pescekeerirj riissions. search and rescue operations, and in other ways. to ssy nothing of the risks cf war. That some will die is the rarur? of the job. Policenira prison cusrd? readily assess trrt hszards of their du- ties, and those lhar like iht odds car. iheni ss cihers hzzards. by choDsir-g some other wvjps- don. Tne third argument in izvor of refining the penahy, thai killers dtverve to b4 killed. owe more to Giiben and Sulli- vsn thari to ii i? not possible to "make ihe o-jn- ifhmo" fii The crur.e." To say Thf.: every murderer to die U n-.ore a> 'ih.r. rcbVrs be oivy the criTiiirniis vho cie- should be put in yil. T.ii-r? i? r.o r.-.eriM c: kr.o-.v. bi1. To pri same b? riven icr the same c-ime many QUCSIIOTTF. Is moron r.5 culpable, I'le n> an inielliecr: 1.- a man who fivxi r..- a? a rich nnn ho 5 1 e a money0 1> a lone prisor. term same; for 3 li'fjiaser .15 for .'in Is imprisonment the for a Nxikwrn .is 'y: ;vi Or for .my people? For ihot miiiter. i> ard inflicicd. aKvriy-; nnd Truly justified, wlien wv so .cravcly rivXibt the rstionaliiy of our inslilulions. and so of Oie conditions thai form osch porsnn's and ivyond hi> cvnirol? ?o. then, i space is given to is that it 15 kno-.n through sur- veys i 'vhoi bssTi'i 'wen aoDe by Tne Kerala ior 2 Ic-r.g rime uiuonunaiely a sermon on leiier? is one of the best read pans oi any A man once rejected my 10 wriie a in reply to ari ediiorial :o which he had taken saying that he bsd TIO of helping to Tlie Leuibridge Herald. AyJiaugh i: is doubrfu] i: rnanr subscritv tp a j-s: :o be able to resd ]erters. it is a factor in keeping readers. A iTiijch more for i? that :his msy tlie of eet'uir.g so.rr.e balance o: views K. current issues. TJ'-c editorii' v.rite-s fr. ar.y tp; ;o or to dc e'.op a certain in :Mk which n-ili s.-reen oal Lbe evrrvssira o: aiiernarjve In irder. then, to have a 'sir pxciiinge of opin- r-laoe iY.r reauers" rjeevis to be idc-i. rr-.x-': rfjjon lor pnoii'.r-igir.c readi-r is liir.t rr.ij- take? ir. no: merely disagree- ab'.e views. appear in parers and they to be corrected. Nc-.vspapers sre priir.ary source for tha V'Tiiir.i: o: VrJess ar- pear subsequent issues of a the perpetuation of error may be assured. Peo- who know the farts mkhl weil cor.- it a lo communicate tV.CTi throtigli the icitiT; Tne volume of 'leuors to The Herald h.-.s not yet led us to concliicx1 that we should be selective whr.: print. In there were letters printed: in 1970; St-i in and Wi in 19T2. Trus i; not a larpe nmilx1! it uould be an er.vish'.e sit- uatior, if oruiugri c.ime to more tl'.an fill a daily reserved space for then only ihr best H-ouid bo included. At almost all letters are prinlcxi Tlie nre letters without siCT.tliin-s icven letters to apiwar n.'.r.tes be ones that are nijni'ocr.ii'lHVl drciharj from simply because of the daiiger of overej- posure of the author. Peopje may be inhibited from vrrliipg by a suspicion that what they write will be mangled by editing. This is apparent b} with which leners come accom- panied by insiructions to print verbatim or not at all. There are very few people write witi such dariry and conciseness that their efforts cotiid not be improved by yj- dicious editing. We do no; claim superior ability in this area but we get some ex- pressions of sppreciation for fixing letters up. Wiere letters are cut care is exer- cised to see that essential coints are no; removed, bin here our judgment is some- times questioned. If we have indeed made a mess of it or the author is particularly incensed we can always print the letter as received, identifying the parts removed and leave it to the reader? ro judge our competence or incompetence a procedure once followed and wruch aroused interest. to the psce is affonirf readers through bylined anicief as well a? h letters to 'Oe eoitor. A discussion of this will occupy a subseo'jent I began my iotrrnaUstic career by Irg letters to newspapers. I don't believe it had anything to do vrlth rr.y inflation to the stiff of Tre Leth- br.dge Herald, hcwtver. My Jerte-s tivk the cor.servativis-n of Ttie Ca'giry Herald anr] net: with the viewis by Mr. .Mowers !.e wrote for The Albertan. and thus pnv1- ably did not come to his attention. The firs; letter I remember writing wss to the MountaLneer when we lived in Saskatchewan. It was in the late 4Cs or early 5ds during a federal tion campaign. John Diefer.baker was run- rjig in oonstjrjenci' ing in :ii? ;O-IT. hail the editor reported tlial a large number of "suppor.ers" turr.ed ox to hoa- th? candidate. In letter 1 pointed out that all the pivp'.e present uere not necessarily supporters of M-. Diefenbaier in rr.y case IMS: I mace an effort to hear all canc.tdaies so that r.iy presence at any meeting could not be co.'.stnied as support. I iher, wvnt on to tha; r.tte.Tdir.c only the favcred candidate's mei'tini; nulliinV. Ihe cratic purjtoso behitxi is to convince voters to the candidate. Vi riling le.ters can Sv 3 lo: fur, I critriiViend thv ard proT.i.-e to be of eMrrmely sense of; to dp.iplier or lh a le'.'et- is filed ;