George F. Will lambastes Gov. George Ryan's commutation of the death sentences of all 167 inmates in Illinois prisons [op-ed, Jan. 19]. He argued that Gov. Ryan's actions are "exuberantly anti-democratic" and go against the Constitution, legislation (both state and federal) and Supreme Court standards. That ignores two other tenets of U.S. democracy: separation of powers and federalism.

The Founding Fathers understood that states' rights and the states' inherent ability to govern themselves provide elected state executives with the power to commute sentences. Gov. Ryan's actions were clearly within the purview of U.S. democratic principles.

JEFF S. McBRIDE

Washington

*

Gov. George Ryan's commutation of death sentences in Illinois can be assailed on legal, moral and practical grounds, but George F. Will wrote, "It is disrespectful of life, and of the victims' survivors, not to take a life for an especially heinous murder."

In whose conception of morality is this belief uniformly true? Some of us share this opinion, but many others do not believe in the eye-for-an-eye credo. Mr. Will does not seem to recognize the difference between individual capriciousness and state-sanctioned capriciousness. A primary role of any system of government is to protect individuals from unjust acts of cruelty, such as the unlawful taking of life.

JONATHAN EIG

Potomac