MAIL CALL: Crime and Punishment

Article excerpt

Responding to our cover story on Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the roots of evil, some readers said the convicted man should be put to death. "Die he certainly must," declared one, "if there is to be closure in this chapter of our history." But others expressed concern about capital punishment. "How is sitting down in a room and watching a man die any better than killing 168 people with a van full of explosives?" asked one. Another argued, "By executing McVeigh, the government is playing right into his hands and will make him a martyr." Reflected another: "To be against the death penalty does not mean murderers don't deserve to die. It means we are not God."

Indefensible Behavior Thank you for your concise analysis of "The Roots of Evil" (NATIONAL AFFAIRS, May 21). It should be emphasized that the psychological cocktail of narcissism, lack of empathy and the tendency to dehumanize others for one's own purposes does not have to manifest itself in sensational crimes to qualify as evil. More often, evildoers with the same personality profile appear as highly functional, socially productive members of society whose cold-hearted manipulation of others occurs in the home and workplace. Their ability to compartmentalize enables them to lead double lives. Sexual harassment on the job and emotional and physical abuse at home are perpetrated every day by seemingly "normal," even likable people. The effect is that lives are willfully destroyed by someone who doesn't care about the pain he or she inflicts, and often seems to enjoy it. The victims of such emotional predators feel as if they, too, have looked at the face of evil.

Katie Day--Philadelphia, Pa.

To characterize the delay of Timothy McVeigh's execution as "Justice on Hold" is incorrect. Rather, we are seeing justice in action. In our legal system, criminal defendants, no matter how heinous the crime, are entitled to certain safeguards, including disclosure of all information gathered by law enforcement. The FBI's revelation about documents it failed to turn over to McVeigh's defense attorneys brings to light a larger issue that should concern all Americans. If the defense in a high-profile case such as this was not provided with all discovery before trial (unintentionally or otherwise), it is frightening to think what happens in ordinary cases. Those who support the death penalty, believing the legal system to be infallible, should re-examine their position.

Tony K. Heider--Bakersfield, Calif.

Your cover headline should have read revenge on hold, not justice on hold. When will we learn that when a government utilizes capital punishment, it automatically sends a message to its citizens that killing a person is an acceptable way to deal with a problem?

Scott D. Roller--Pittsburgh, Pa.

Kenneth Woodward's NEWSWEEK stories are always perspicacious, and his May 21 article, "Overcoming Sin" (NATIONAL AFFAIRS), is universal in its exploration of theology and profound in its individual application. Thanks for this truly erudite piece of introspection.

Kathleen Bone--Dallas, Texas

McVeigh should be forced to live with what he did. He wants to die, and shouldn't be given anything he wants. At first I thought he should be put in the general population of the highest maximum-security prison, but the inmates would kill him the same way they killed Jeffrey Dahmer. Let him die of old age in solitary confinement if you really want to punish him.

D. Jackson--Jacksonville, Fla.

Timothy McVeigh is not a man but a monster. I believe he knew exactly what he was doing and he didn't care about who he killed. I think that keeping him alive is wrong. We are letting him live in a clean jail cell and giving him three meals a day. I think that after killing those 168 people, he deserves to be killed himself. The families who had their loved ones snatched from them by evil should have justice. …