I must take issue with the Dec. 28 editorial "The Year in Death."

* First, DNA evidence cuts both ways. While it exonerates those unjustly convicted, it also nails the guilty. The possibility of mistakes in rape and other convictions has diminished, and objections based on wrongful conviction have become weaker.

* Second, the editorial said that evidence that we gain anything from capital punishment is scant. If the point is that any punishment that does not prove to be a deterrent to crime should be dispensed with, then incarceration should be the first to go.

* Third, according to the editorial, 98 people were executed in the United States in 1999, a figure The Post finds appalling. Might readers have been interested to know the number of murders committed in that same period?

* Fourth, the public should be concerned about innocent people being put to death, but should we not also lament the fact that murderers go free because of technicalities or because they can afford a top-notch lawyer?

* Finally, if we face the frightening possibility that innocent people can be executed, is the abolition of capital punishment the only remedy? Might not a drastic tightening of the conditions for its application achieve the same result?

Suppose it were stipulated that no one might be executed who was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone; wouldn't that close the door on execution of innocents while leaving intact the ultimate penalty for those who kill?


Upper Marlboro