Will the Death Penalty Ever Die?

Will the Death Penalty Ever Die?
AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

When my older brother Jan David Rakoff was murdered in 1985, bolts of anger and outrage not infrequently penetrated the black cloud of my grief. Though I knew almost nothing about Jan's confessed murderer except his name, I wished him dead.

My brother, aged forty-four, had just begun to come into his own. His innovative educational theories were starting to attract attention, and, just as important, he had come to terms with his homosexuality, which for many years he had struggled to suppress. While on a trip to Manila, he engaged the services of a male prostitute, but at the end they quarreled over money. In a fit of rage, the prostitute assaulted my brother with a pipe burner and an ice pick, bludgeoning and stabbing him to death. To cover his tracks, the prostitute then set fire to the bungalow where my brother was staying; but the smoke attracted the attention of a security guard, who apprehended the fleeing assailant. Later that evening, the prostitute provided a full written confession.

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