Wayne Overson contends that the death penalty should be overturned because in recent decades over 200 convicts have been released who were allegedly innocent ("Prisoner costs," Readers' Forum, Jan. 9).

What Overson and other opponents of the death penalty fail to realize is that hundreds of innocent people have been murdered, raped, assaulted or otherwise victimized by criminals sentenced to life in prison, in lieu of the death penalty, who were later released by a liberal appellate court, or governor. Do the names Willie Horton or Maurice Clemmons sound familiar?

The number of innocent civilians who have been victimized by career criminals, who have been sentenced to life in prison and later released, far exceeds the number of those who have been innocently convicted of a crime. If we could depend on the court system to be an advocate for the victim instead of the criminal and keep a "lifer" in prison, then maybe the death penalty would not be necessary.

Is the current system perfect? No. But as long as liberal judges and governors feel the need to release convicted murderers then the death penalty remains a necessity. The death penalty may or may not be a deterrent as has been argued ad nauseum, but at least an executed murderer will never be released to murder again.

Brad Merritt

Woodland Hills