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California State University, Dominguez Hills
Created: July 25, 2001
Latest update: February 18, 2003
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one f jeanne's nightmares of prison. February 18, 2003, after death penalty seminar Letter from One Who Has Been on Death Row
This letter is a backup from Dr. Mark Levy's Law and Psychiatry Site, since it is found there as news, and may no longer be there when you search for it. But it might be a good idea to look around Dr. Levy's site anyway. Maybe you'd like a career in forensic psychology and sociology. They're growing fields, especially as we reinterpret our criminal justice system. I didn't find the letter below on February 18, 2003, but I had little time to hunt. jeanne

"6/27/01 On the Death Penalty...a letter to the New York Times from Professor of Psychiatry Emanuel Tanay."

Letter to the Editor of New York Times by Emanuel Tanay, M.D.

I am apprehensive when government has the right to kill citizens who are or are believed to be evil. I have good reasons to be fearful of a state that has the right to kill evil people. For five long years I was on a death row. I was one of the bad people that was State sentenced to death by a civilized State. I am a Holocaust survivor from Poland. In spite of this fact I was opposed the execution of Adolph Eichman in Israel and I am alarmed by the power of American Government to impose the death penalty.

Death penalty does not deter homicide. I am no stranger to murder. I am a forensic psychiatrist who has examined hundreds of homicide perpetrators. Among them were Jack Ruby, Ted Bundy and the Cincinnati Angel of Death who killed more than 50 helpless patients. In that case I testified for the prosecution because a wise prosecutor decided not to seek the death penalty but accepted a guilty plea to life sentence without parole. This was accomplished with the cost of few thousand dollars. The federal government spent millions to execute Timothy McVeigh. What did we gain? Some talk about closure for the families. The execution of the Nazi leadership did not bring closure to the Holocaust survivors. My father, Bronislaw Tenenwurzel, was tortured and killed in front of the entire camp Plaszow by Amon Goeth, the anti-hero of Schindlerís List. Goeth was sentenced by a Polish court to death and hanged. The execution of Amon Goeth did not bring closure to me. Killing the killers validates the belief that killing solves real or imaginary problems. The arguments against death penalty as racist and discriminatory against the poor are self-defeating. They imply that there is a humane and fair way for the state to kill itís citizens. The right to kill bad people is a dangerous concession to the totalitarian conception of a government.

It is bizarre that a country that did not trust the government to regulate health care is willing to entrust it with the right to kill.