Letters to the Editor

December 17, 1998

Death penalty legal, but not right

To the editor:

With the execution of Tyrone X. Gilliam on Nov. 16, 1998, the verbose and frenzied debate regarding the death penalty forged ahead with no end in sight, leaving no stones unturned.

I believe that somewhere in the heat and strong emotions of this national controversy, the real matter of contention has been ignored. Discarding the bombastic and rhetorical components from this argument, the prevailing question is this. Must Tyrone Gilliam die solely in the name of the law?

First, according to the statute, everyone convicted of murder and robbery does not quality as a candidate for the death penalty. What then were the qualifications applied in Tyrone's case? He was a young black male convicted of murder and robbery of a 21-year-old white female, a crime that netted a total of $3, but in the process a precious life was lost that can never be restored.


The crime itself was horrendous, and I certainly wept for the victim's family for the loss of a loved one gone too soon. The greatest power that a person posseses is the power of choice. Therefore, proponents on this issue will argue that Tyrone made a choice, and once he made the choice the consequence was no longer in his hands; so he alone was responsible for his actions and the results.

On the other hand, opponents on this issue will argue that the death penalty is primarily adopted for the under-priviledged, the impoverished and the disfranchised, and it is merely coincidental that the vast majority happen to be poor and black. Furthermore, the probability increases ten-fold if the accused is black and the victim is white.

So, why did Tyrone Gilliam die? Was it for law and order, vengeance and retribution or race and poverty? What was the real conclusive determinant in this equation? Perhaps the question need not be answered; it has already been decided. His punishment was lawful and the proponents washed their hands like Pontius Pilate because his death and blood were not on their hands.

In the end, the death and execution of Tyrone X. Gilliam resolved absolutely nothing. The law is like a mirror that reveals the problem, but it does not provide a real solution.

Until we begin to address the causes and provide real solutions, the symptoms will continue to be manifested in future Tyrones, who are waiting in the wings to take center stage, and they will become actors and pseudo stars in the play of life, and they too will be gone too soon.

The death and execution of Tyrone Gilliam was legal, but it had very little to do with the law. It had more to do with politics, the almighty dollar, social status and ethnicity. So Tyrone Gilliam on this night became Maryland's sacrificial lamb that was led to slaughter, ant it was perfectly legal all in the name of the law.

David Belton

No. 128-607


Watch out for air bags

To the editor:

How does it feel to be injured or killed by something that's supposed to save lives? Airbags, thought to be a life-saving invention, have killed more people than expected. It's important to get airbags out if we want to stay alive because this increases chances of survival.

Airbags are large and powerful; they're required to protect secure occupants. Airbags can deploy by touching them or having something on top. Anyone to close when it deploys can be severely hurt or killed.

Airbags have caused serious injury to many people: suffocation, broken arms/necks, and death. Short people and children are especially vulnerable to airbag injuries, although anyone can be injured if they're too close. Therefore, protected occupants should be as far away as possible from strike surfaces.

The best way to avoid being hurt or killed is for all passengers to buckle up and children to ride in back seats. To help eliminate the problem, there was a proposal to put an on-and-off switch on all airbags. However, if they cannot be active all the time, then engineers need to make new improvements.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials also refused to grant requests from hundreds of motorists who wish to have their airbags legally disconnected; they're only granted for people with stated medical problems.

Airbags are now more common and everyone needs to know how to minimize their risks. I strongly believe they should be taken out. If people petition and write to Congressmen, we might succeed. They may increase your chances of survival, but also increase your chances of death. Let's work together and get airbags out of cars.

Ann Mills

11th grade


Shoe project did well

To the editor:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank many area businesses, church groups, organizations and individuals who took part in the 1998 Operation Christmas Child shoe box project. Because of your efforts and donations we were able to collect 1,720 shoe boxes filled with toys, hygiene items and gifts to be sent to needy children around the world.

A special thanks to Richard Belisle and The Morning Herald whose article generated much interest in the project.

With everyone's continued support we hope to be even more successful next year.

Loretta Tharp

Lorrie Smedley

Waynesboro, Pa.

Government can't break the law

To the editor:

Your editorial of Dec. 2, "A necessary inconvenience" seems to say that even if the "instant check" on gun owners is illegal federal gun registration, that's OK because it might have prevented John Hinkley from buying a gun.

Since when is it permissible for the federal government to break the law for any reason?

Doug Delmont

Waynesboro, Pa.

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