the execution | frontline online
clifford being visited by alan austin
Discussion: Has America become comfortable with capital punishment? Did it make sense to kill Clifford Boggess?


Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought it was very clear that Mr. Austin knew that Mr. Boggess was basically the same person who committed the murders. Mr. Boggess tried as best he could to simulate normal emotions such as regret, a conscience, etc., but I believe it was obvious that were Mr. Boggess free, anyone in his path would be in mortal danger.

minneapolis, minnesota


Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline, As a compassionate, life- and God-respecting 53yr. old potentially terminally ill person with AIDS, I am sick and tired and disgusted with American society's ambivalent, lenient, liberal, convoluted, misplaced and misdirected tolerance and compassion to oppose an EXTREMELY EXPEDIENT AND EVEN PUBLICLY DISPLAYED DEATH PENALTY FOR 100% ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN-WITHOUT-A-DOUBT VIOLENT, PREMEDITATED, KNOWN AND CONVICTED MURDERERS! And perhaps American society should also invoke a death-penalty equivalent to the degree of harshness and severity of the murderer's act of murder (Like deserves Like, or, Tit for Tat). We cannot absolutely speak for God but can only ask God's forgiveness for our current, mortal, human primitive procedures of metering out human justice, until we really discover some better way. While I may have appreciated Clifford Boggess's unfortunate childhood, good intelligence, artwork and spiritual conversion, and feel Frontline's program presentation was excellent, it does not erase or excuse the murders he conducted or the punishment he deserved. Thank you for your program.

Gary Kettas
los angeles, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

It did not surprise me when you revealed that Clifford was adopted. His story is really atypical of criminal behavior, but saddly quite typical of a syndrome of adoptees known at Attachment Disorder. The tie-in with the Death Penalty is mostly irrelevant since that story would have discussed the "mainstream" of Death Row imates, not Boggess. However,as a story about untreated and maltreated Attachment Disorder in an adopted child, it was quite poignant. While only a minority of adopted children have Attachment Disorder, many well-meaning adoptive parents have been suddenly confronted by it when the child is placed with them. They wrestle daily with the fear that their son or daughter is a potential Clifford Boggess. Attachment Disorder is, itself, controversial and deserves TV coverage, and has received such coverage, though not enough. The Death Penalty also deserved coverage, but not in a way that confuses the public into a belief that Death Row inmates are all as candid and insightful as Boggess.

Daniel Connelly
south burlington, vermont


Dear FRONTLINE,

Yes, America is comfortable with capital punishment; its only the bleeding-heart media that makes martyrs out of these useless human beings who "turn to Jesus" in order to feign redemption! Hurray for Texas in leading the nation in the administration of justice! Shame on Texas for allowing them the luxuries of life such as art supplies, computers and the opportunity to sell their bill of goods for profit. It's called JUSTICE, gentlemen, and DETERRENT! Wake up, Media!

Pete Argeroplos
degraff, ohio


Dear FRONTLINE,

I read other viewer comments and I disagree with the music being inappropriate. It was a part of who Clifford "was"...

After watching the show, watching his interview on the internet, reading letters and viewer comments...I have come to my own conclusion that Clifford was not a changed man...and your documentary did not portray that. (In disagreement with various viewers) In fact, I found the reporting to be honest, objective and real... I stand "unclear" when it comes to the death penalty. As a person who has not lost anyone to murder, I can honestly say, I am truly unclear. However, if the day ever came I just might be one of the viewers behind the glass.

Christene LeDoux
san francisco, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

Clifford Boggess was tried, judged and convicted under the laws of Texas. I believe that his execution was right and just according to secular law. If he hade a conversion, in his heart, to Jesus, then I believe that he is, also, in heaven and declared innocent according to divine law. If this is true, Christians should rejoice that another sinner has been saved. Jesus made it very clear He loved us all equally and those who accepted Him as Lord and Savior would be redeemed and forgiven.

Del Mahon
yuma, arizona


Dear FRONTLINE,

Talk about a fascinating, and, ultimately, disturbing program ... while incredibly well done, in my opinion, the excursion into the life of Clifford Boggess didn't answer the question at hand -- did it make sense to kill him? -- and I am forced to the realization that it could NOT answer it. What Boggess did is surely undeserving of any mercy or leniency -- yet was the man executed the man who committed the murders? Truly? Strangely enough, however, I think this is a good thing ... I know I will never be able to state with steadfast certainty that the death penalty is the proper response again. Thanks, for making me think.

Kate Helms-Martin
forest ridge, oh


Dear FRONTLINE,

This story is sad. The bitterness of the victims' families were too bitter for my understanding. Let me bring up a poignant story of Alfred Coors (of the Coors brewery).

Alfred's father was shot, for what reason I cannot recall. However, the bitterness and hatred Alfred carried with him for a few years almost destroyed his marriage. One day he went to the prison to forgive the murderer. The peace that overcame Alfred was beyond description. He became happier, mended his marriage and unfortunately lost the ties to his siblings as a result. Being a Christian he could only do one thing: forgive.

Clifford Boggess was right, if we do not forgive how are we to fully understand how God could forgive us?

A. Rehn
leduc, alberta, canda


Dear FRONTLINE,

Last night I was in San Francisco, standing in the crowd along with those representative of both extremes in the impassioned argument regarding judicial homicide. I asked myself over and over what purpose any execution serves. I saw first hand the ageless faces, and the unified family of the very old souls with a much deeper understanding than those responsible to execute the task at hand. Tonights program regarding Clifford Boggess was outstanding, and only confirmed more strongly the understanding I gained by being witness to the effects the execution had on all who were compelled to be in attendence. But it truly begs the question; Who has been served by the death of the convicted? Have the needs of all those touched by the event been satisfied? And if not, then for whom was the execution performed, and what outcome was produced? No one benefited in your example in this evenings program. Not the family, not the community, not the tax payer, and certainly not those taking the murderers life in the name of the state. What is different at the exact moment the heart of a convicted murderer ceases beating?

Barbara Waters
san joaquin county, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

The sickness is more easy to prevent than to treat. Something should be done with irresponsible pregnancies of drug addicted women. And it has to be started in schools. The system of children education should be complitely changed, to become more adapted for social needs of children from disfunctional families. Also, more kids have to learn working skils right in the school, so they will be able to adapt to independent life more easy. The clases and teachers schedule should make possible to arrange some permanent groups of students, so friendship and social interaction would be part of life for every student, no child should feel lonely. The prison facilities, shown in your program look better than many of our Elementary schools...and much, much more has to be done. Good schools now are better than good prisons later.

Sarah Peret
flagstaff, az


Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought your choice of Clifford Boggess was a good one in that he was certainly not a "sympathetic character" - his detachment was unsettling. As I read some of your posts, I am struck by the "eye for an eye" mentality, yet the bitter, empty feelings of the victims' families never seem to be put to rest with the execution of the perpetrator. What did Clifford's execution accomplish? Nothing. We can do better.

appleton, wi


Dear FRONTLINE,

Yes, it is great to kill murderers, it does a lot of good, it's the right thing to do. Please do a more interesting story, like on how the average person could get involved in helping murderers get killed much sooner, and more painfully. Or a story on the victims, and their family. Getting to know what the murdered people's hopes and dreams were. Perhaps a story advocating public hangings, or town justice on criminals, where the town gets to beat the murderer to death in the streets. It's ok to want justice, and it's ok to be violent to get it. As is demonstrated in the armies our country supports.

Tim Berry
anywhere, usa


Dear FRONTLINE,

After viewing your special on Clifford Boggess, and after hearing the questions which you raised regarding capital punishment, I feel compelled to respond. I am a Christian and believe, as Mr. Boggess apparently did, that there is forgiveness only in Jesus Christ.

The Gospel message, as found in the Bible, is a very simple message, which states that God is not mad at us, and is offering us a way to return home. That way home is through his only begotten Son Jesus Christ...

...The matter of capital punishment should not be considered on the basis of some kind of punishment, but rather as a deterrent for others who are considering murder as a means of settling their differences. Capital punishment was not instituted by man. God is the one who authorized it, and he authorized it as a deterrent to others. If you are willing to take the life of another, by your own hands, through a premeditated act, then you must be willing to pay with your own. It is as simple as that, and it is the most fair and equitable way to deal with this sin.

My concern is for those victims who are left behind. By victims, I mean the family of Cifford Boggess, and the families of his murder victims. The worse part of what Mr. Boggess did is evident in the unforgiveness of these families. One thing that our Lord stressed above all, and that is that our forgiveness from our heavenly Father, for our sins, is ever contingent on our ability to forgive others of their trespasses against us. There has to be a closure and forgiveness, which means that the individual is able to completely release the offending party from all guilt. The obvious response, from anyone in such a condition, is that someone has to pay for my loss, and my suffering. These feelings are completely natural and understandable. The answer is, that because of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary, where he took upon himself that punishment, when he carried all of our sins, in his own body. It is because of that work, which he has completed on Calvary, that we no longer have the right to harbor feelings of unforgiveness against anyone. Such feelings only hurt the one who harbors them, anyway, it does not affect the other person, who may not even be aware that they exist...

Skip Barland

Skip Barland
laguna niguels, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

Has America become comfortable with capital punishment? Given the alarming number of executions and death penalty proponents in this country, is there really any doubt? It is no wonder that as a society we have seemingly become anesthetized to violence. The death penalty only adds to our crippling numbing as a society. The death penalty solves nothing, deters nothing, and certainly doesn't save anything. Killing is killing, no matter who is the executioner.

Howard Meyer
eagle river, alaska


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think that in programs such as yours far too much emphasis is put on the criminal and not the victims. I suppose this is unavoidable, after all the victims are dead and can't speak for themselves. I believe in the death penality for one simple reason; there are some acts committed by people that are so hienous that to commit them is to give up one's right to be considered human and shown the considerations there of. Several years ago, in the state where I live, such a crime was commited. Two men attacked a family. The father was shot and the mother had her throat cut. Both survived. One daughter was raped and another, a 12 year old retarded girl was kidnapped. She was later found repeatedly raped and murdered. These men were given the death penality in the state where the murder occured. After the sentence was passed a local news show asked people on the street what they thought of the decision. I'll always remember one response. The woman asked who gave anyone the right to execute them. My answer to that is simple. I give the right. And without knowing it she does too and so does everybody who agrees that this was an unacceptable type of behavior. They no longer had the privilage, in my opinion, of being considered human. Boggess was the same. And it was painfully clear that no matter what he may have said in the letter to the grand daughter of one of his victims, he was using the "abuse excuse." No matter what their backgrounds, people must be held accountable for their actions. He knew perfectly well that what he was doing was wrong; he even chose particular victims, one's that would not be able to fight back. This is the cowardice of all criminals. Finally, I would like to make one comment on his "conversion." No amount of change can wipe away the past, not through religion, talent or remorse. And as for being forgiven by God? All I can say is that I want no part of a God that could forgive such a man.

Timothy Sauer
boone, ia

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