of the death sentence, even though atnthe time Missouri had not put a personnto death in nearly a quarter of a century.nSignificantly, the latter had professednhis innocence until the death-qualifiednjury was actually in place. Deals maynalso include agreements by the criminalsnto testify against comrades. Obviously,nthe death statutes have clout evennwhen they are not used for their intendednpurpose.nObviously also, a prosecutor withoutnthe death penalty backing him has lessnto bargain with. In states without andeath penalty, perpetrators of grislynmurders are more likely to go to trial ornplea bargain for much less proportionatenpunishment. Trial means expendingnuntold sums and energy, risking reversiblentrial error, and fretting over witnessnand jury unpredictability, in order, if thenstate is lucky, to get the results Missouringot more easily in the cases mentionednabove.nThe outcome in the Missouri casesn-has its unsatisfactory side. The evidencensuggests that both murderers not onlynkilled for thrills but tortured as well, andnthe state had reliable witnesses whonwere willing to say so. The death sentencenfor these men, assuming a trialnwith no surprises, was an absolute certainty.nNow these criminals can benexpected to live a long life at thentaxpayers’ expense. But such was probablynthe case even if these criminals hadnbeen sentenced to death.nWhy, then, does the mere existencenof these statutes set off the anti-deathnpenalty crowd like nothing else? In mynlimited experience, the answer is thatnsome people are uncomfortable withnthe notion of any type of serious punishmentnfor the violent, especially lifenprison terms. These are the peoplenwho write letters to the editor of theirnlocal paper reminding us that mostnmurderers were abused as children andneconomically deprived. Maybe. Maybennot. It has been my observation thatnmost violent criminals are compulsivenliars, in addition to everything else.nSome lawyers will describe theirnclients as victims of circumstances —ngiven too easy access to alcohol andnweapons at the same time, for example.nThese lawyers indicate further thatnthey blame the prison environment fornthe ever-apparent deficiencies in theirnclients’ characters. Recently, I was describingnto a public defender the utterndepravity of one of my clients, who isnseeking post-conviction relief. Thisnlawyer opposes the death penalty and,njudging from her lapel button, favorsnpeace and justice in Central America.nShe told me that my point of view wasnunderstandable, but that I must realizenthat post-conviction relief clients havenbeen in a poisoned environment for anwhile and that the prison experience isnthe cause of their appalling nastiness.n”When they first get to prison, they’renreally nice,” she said. “Even murderersnare nice.”nBetsy Clarke is a public defender innColumbia, Missouri.nLETTERSnWriting in thenTolstoy Traditionnby Sally S. Wrightn^^Talways wanted to be a writer InXcan remember the first booknI ever wrote when I was very little.nI wrote the title and the index, but Indidn’t actually get ’round to the contents.”nNikolai Tolstoy laughs and leansnback, trying to fit his extremely long legsnunder my dining room table.nCount Nikolai Tolstoy, who considersnhimself a Celtic scholar whose specialtynis the study of Merlin, was in thisncountry to receive an award from thenUSIC Educational Foundation innWashington in recognition of that partnof his writing that examines the forcednrepatriation of Russian soldiers at thenend of Worid War II.nnnHe’s an extremely tall fifty-threeyear-oldnRussian emigre, born andnraised in England, who never heard thenRevolution mentioned in his own homenand has ambivalent views about aristocrats.nHe’s a countryman whose chickensnescape and whose roof leaks, whonkeeps donkeys that have been left in hisnpaddock, and enjoys the occasionalnsword fight with his small son. He ranninto Tintern Abbey the last time hentried to drive. He laughs easily, andntalked to me for four days withoutnavoiding a question.nWhen I asked how he felt aboutnaristocrats, he said, “In my personalncase, I think it’s a great advantagenbecause, being obsessed by history, onenknows so much more about one’s ancestors,nand it makes one feel in somenway very much part of that unfoldingnprocess.n”But as a political institution, I havenvery ambivalent views. A code of honor,nit seems to me, is really part of thendefinition of an aristocracy. Hereditaryntitles are all very well, but that’s just anname. And I have very mixed feelingsnin England, where too many of thenaristocracy (and they vary greatly) arenpeople simply living on their name andnwhat inherited wealth they’ve got. I feelnextremely hostile to the youth of anprivileged class which abuses that privilegenand arrogantly exalts things which,nin fact, they never earned and would benincapable of earning themselves. Indeed,nall the more duty do you have,nand the higher expectation of what younshould set out to achieve, becausenyou’ve started off with so great annadvantage.”nHis grandfather was Leo Tolstoy’sncousin, and although Nikolai considersnWar and Peace “one of the mostnextraordinary literary achievementsnever written,” he also finds “the philos-ophynof history as expressed in thenbook unconvincing and artificial.” Andnunlike most writers, he thinks “one ofnthe curses of literature in the 20thncentury is the enormous prestige whichnis placed on the artist and the writer.”nHis own writing has taken a circuitousnroute that started when he was anvery small boy being shuffled from onenboarding school to another during thenBlitz, when there was reason to losenhimself in the pleasures of historicalnnovels. They remained “a serious absorption”nuntil he was at least 20,nAPRIL 1989/53n