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Letters to the Editors

Bennie Demps' 'ordeal' was nothing unusual

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


I was moved to tears when reading the article about the death row inmate who endured what he claimed was a botched execution by lethal injection (Inmate claims injection bungled, June 8). My tears were not for the inmate, though, but for his three victims whose lives he irrevocably destroyed and for their families.

What Bennie Demps "endured," good, law-abiding citizens of this country endure every day. I work in a hospital where most of the customers (as we are told to call patients now) are older patients who typically have veins that are harder to stick for intravenous access or for blood draws. Yet these are veterans -- some are war-decorated heroes, almost all are ideal citizens -- and the only thing most of these people did wrong was to get sick. The IV team at our hospital (these are nurses with lots of experience at starting IV sites) will try to stick a patient twice before calling another person to give it a try, and then they may try twice. Also, the process of a "cut down," a surgical procedure where an incision is made to gain access to a vein, is not uncommon in the real world.

The state was not trying to "torture" Bennie Demps by sticking him once for each of his victims. It's just a simple fact of life that some people have worse veins than others and that sometimes access cannot be obtained the first time. I know this from personal and professional experience.

Demps could have chosen the electric chair instead, but he didn't. In Florida a death-row inmate has a choice about how he will die. As a matter of fact, we all have a choice. So, too, did Demps have a choice when he chose to kill three people. We all make different choices and must accept responsibility for our choices.

Maybe the real problem here is that the press even found this newsworthy, much less worthy of the front page. Maybe, also, instead of a six-minute diatribe about his ordeal before death and his last request being an investigation into his execution, Bennie Demps should have been apologizing to his victims' families and seeking some personal redemption.
-- Catherine Sypniewski, Seminole

Many endure the same precess

Re: Inmate claims injection bungled.

A few large-bore needle marks in the murderous body of a convicted three-time killer and a little cut in his leg constitutes torture? Cruel and unusual punishment? I think not.

I was a regular blood donor for years until I was asked to stop due to my travels and studies in England. During a few of my donation sessions I was asked to endure multiple attempts to find in my arm a vein that was proper for donating blood through that oh-so-menacing, torturous large-bore needle.

Uncomfortable? Yes. Painful? Yes. Torture? No.

My "torture" was endured to save lives. Demps "torture" was endured because he chose to take a life. Justice? Yes, without a doubt!
Steven Davis, Port Richey

Who cares what Demps said?

Re: Inmate died shaking his fist at state of Florida, by Mary Jo Melone, June 8.

Who cares what Bennie Demps said about how he was executed? He was a three-time convicted murderer. What of the pain he caused in those he killed or among the surviving family members?

People, including Melone, should be less worried what a person who commits atrocities thinks or how much pain he might be in when executed and more concerned with the victims. It's this very liberal-minded thinking that allows more violence to continue. Some Americans are so worried about how things are perceived that they forget what really matters: those on whom the crimes were inflicted.

Jeb Bush, instead of trying to defend lethal injection, should tell Melone and those like her to "get a life and get over it!"
-- Dave Bothwell, Seminole

Thinking about the pain

Bennie Demps killed three people and then complained about the pain inflicted on his veins. Get real.

I guess he wasn't thinking about the pain he was inflicting on the people he killed. If he had known about the pain of those needles and had any idea how torturous it would be, I guess he would've thought twice about taking someone's life.
-- Shirley Blake, Seminole

Executions are too easy

Re: Bennie Demps' execution.

So he only had one IV. So a little incision had to be made to find a vein. So some people are crying that this is cruel and unusual punishment.

So who cares! This man was on death row. He had killed three people! He is a murderer! Did he let the three people he killed give a six-minute diatribe about how they were being "butchered" or mistreated? I don't think so.

Demps got off easy, which is also the problem with death sentences today. They are no longer a deterrent to crimes because they are so easy for the person being executed. How many people would commit such crimes if they knew that they were going to be burned alive at the stake or made to suffer as their victims had? A lot fewer, I think.
-- Blair Loveland, Clearwater

Autopsy seems wasteful

Buried in your June 8 story on Bennie Demps' execution was a one-sentence paragraph that highlights the absurd policies to which our legal system has sunk.

The sentence: "The Alachua County medical examiner will perform an autopsy."

Excuse me! The man was just executed by lethal injection in front of 30 witnesses. Is there some question as to how he died?

Now the taxpayer must bear the additional burden of paying for a token autopsy to prove the obvious. This is after Demps, who committed multiple murders, spent 22 years waiting for justice to be done. Can you guess what it cost the taxpayers to keep this guy in prison for 22 years? I suspect it's close to $1-million. For what? And now we must pay for a totally unnecessary autopsy. No wonder Jeb Bush is pushing for reform in the death penalty process. It's a bureaucracy run amok.
-- Philip R. Thompson, Tierra Verde

Send Elian home

I have read with interest and curiosity about the ongoing saga of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. This case has gone on for far too long now, and it's good to see that his relatives' request of political asylum for him has been denied. At last, the United States is showing some sense. If Elian had been a U.S. citizen, his relatives' custody case would never have even made it to court. A 6-year-old child needs his father, and in what country they live is irrelevant.

His Miami relatives were strangers when he arrived, scared and grieving for his mother. To leave him in the care of these unknown, militant relatives was sheer stupidity and insensitivity on the government's part. He should have either been returned to his father's care immediately, or he should have been placed in foster care until the case was resolved.

This has all happened because Elian is from Cuba. If he had come on a boat from China, he would have been returned immediately, no questions asked.

Just because we do not accept Cuba's culture, does not mean that we have a right to tell parents in which countries they are allowed to bring up their children. That is a choice that Juan Miguel Gonzalez is free to make for himself.

As for the uproar over Castro's involvement in getting Elian back to Cuba, wouldn't Bill Clinton do everything in his power to get a U.S. child back with his sole remaining parent if he were being held on foreign soil? It's time that we let Elian go home, before any more damage is done.
-- Samantha Reive, Seminole

Let women participate fully

Re: Jewish women pray at holy wall, June 5.

As a Jewish woman growing up with many of the traditions of the Jewish faith, I am outraged by the patriarchal, archaic traditions imposed by the Israeli Parliament that continue to restrict where women can pray. I'm sure God welcomes prayers anywhere by anyone, regardless of gender or whether you feel closest to God in a boat on the ocean or at the holiest of places, the Wailing Wall.

It's time for women all over the world to enjoy the religious freedoms they so richly deserve.
-- Beverly G. Isaacs, Seminole

Success in diversity

Re: Diversity on campuses to increase, May 25.

Florida's private colleges are 15 years ahead of the curve when it comes to enrolling minorities.

I make that statement as a result of the Educational Testing Service report that projects minorities will make up 43 percent of the public and private college enrollment in Florida by 2015. Minorities currently make up about 37 percent of college enrollment in Florida, ETS reported.

Actually, minorities already make up 43 percent of the students who receive state grants to attend one of Florida's 27 non-profit, independent colleges and universities. This is an exceptional record, reflecting our commitment to ensure access to minority students.

These students received the Florida Resident Access Grant, a tuition-assistance grant awarded to state residents enrolled as full-time, undergraduate students at qualified independent colleges and universities in Florida.

Although the FRAG was not designed as a minority access program when it was enacted 21 years ago, it has become one of Florida's best tools for ensuring African-American and Hispanic students access to a college education. This year, the Florida Legislature made the program a lot better by increasing individual grants from $2,074 to $2,813.

More than 25,000 Florida residents will receive the grants next year. The Legislature's decision to increase the grants by $739 means that an even larger portion of them will be minorities who take advantage of the FRAG to help pay for a quality independent college education in Florida.

Our record of providing access to minority students is a source of great pride and satisfaction to all of us in Florida's independent college community. Serving all Floridians is an essential part of our obligation to our state and its people.
-- Lynn Edward Weaver, Melbourne

Mourning MacNelly's passing

Re: "Shoe" cartoonist MacNelly dies, June 9.

Upon learning the news of Jeff MacNelly's untimely death, I was both stunned and deeply saddened. A day never passed for me without reading his skillfully written comic strip "Shoe." I also relished in reading his intricately drawn satirical editorial cartoons, although on occasion I have angrily disagreed.

Being recognized as one of the most distinguished cartoonists of the 20th century is just a part of what MacNelly will leave as his legacy. For with his passing there is no doubt that Jeff MacNelly will leave very big shoes to be filled. My sincere condolences to the MacNelly family.
-- JoAnn Lee Frank,, Clearwater

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