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Abolish the death penalty

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An Orange County jury sentenced Billy Joe Johnson to death last month. He begged for the death penalty. He was the 46-year-old “shot caller” of a white supremacist gang who ordered a former member killed for snitching. Johnson did not beg the death penalty out of contrition. He knew his death row cell would be considerably larger than the one he would have had to share with another prisoner had he been given life without parole. He can choose his TV shows or CD music without negotiating with a guy who does a thousand push-ups a day. He is allowed more personal possessions with larger space to store them. His contact visits are in a private Plexiglas room rather than in a crowded hall or over a telephone through a glass. He makes calls over a rolling telephone that passes his cell frequently. Had Johnson been sentenced to life without parole he would probably be in the Maximum Security Unit at Pelican Bay. His cell would be about the size of the septic tank buried in my back yard. It would also be underground where sunshine is non-existent. Johnson figures that if he is unlucky enough to be executed it won’t happen until he is 76 years old and ready to die anyway. His case would be just another oddity from the prison system if it didn’t cost the taxpayers millions of dollars more than it would have cost to give him life without parole. An angry letter to the governor won’t change anything. Our death penalty system is wrapped in state and federal constitutions, laws and court decisions. We would all be safer and wiser if we abolished the death penalty. PAUL W. COMISKEY, Newcastle