I applaud The Post's editorial {Feb. 16} stating that "capital punishment is morally repugnant and should not be a tool of the criminal justice system in a civilized society." The Post is absolutely correct.

I would like to add, however, that while these capital prosecutions cost so much, the state -- any state -- pays very little for the defense against such prosecutions.

This is very important because it is mostly poor people who are sentenced to death and executed in this country. Because the defendant can't afford what is necessary to defend himself, the deck is stacked.

In most capital cases, bail is set so high that only the wealthy can afford to be released. That means somebody else has to collect the evidence for an individual's defense. That costs money.

If a defense is not presented in the best possible manner, the chances of persuading a jury of innocence decline dramatically. Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, wrote several years ago that "the overwhelming majority of those on death row did not have effective assistance of counsel." He plainly stated that the quality of representation corresponded directly to what defense counsels were paid.

Maryland provides fees for appointed counsel amounting to $25 per hour for in-court time and $20 per hour for out-of-court time. As for expenses such as an investigator to gather evidence for the defense, the maximum is $500 in felony cases and expenses over this amount are subject to review by the state public defender.

Not only is compensation low in appointed cases, there are many jurisdictions that provide "caps." For example, Florida has a $3,500 maximum for attorney's fees in capital trials and $2,000 for any appeal. Florida permits a plush defense compared with Georgia, which has a maximum of $150 in fees for trial and $250 with an appeal. As for expenses, Georgia permits up to $500 for preparation and investigation for trial and for appeal.

If it isn't civilized to execute someone, what is it if you deny an individual without resources the means to defend himself against execution?

JOHN P. FLANNERY II Leesburg