Only in America could a man convicted of killing 168 people in the deadliest bombing in U.S. history ask to have his execution televised and have his request be given consideration.
It is not unusual for victim’s family members to be present at the death of the perpetrator, in fact, there are often viewing rooms for them to sit in and watch the execution as it takes place. However, in the case of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, there are literally hundreds of family members of his victims who want to be present at his execution. The problem with this is that the execution chamber at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where McVeigh will die by lethal injection on May 16, is only large enough for eight witnesses. So what is to be done with all those who want to watch the execution?
In what can only viewed as a pathetic attempt at becoming a martyr, McVeigh has requested in a letter published by The Sunday Oklahoman that officials “hold a true public execution-allow a public broadcast,” a solution that he labels “reasonable” and “obvious.” What is even more ludicrous than his request is that some television networks have actually shown an interest in broadcasting the execution while others are looking ahead to the money that can be made and are entertaining thoughts about broadcasting the execution as a ‘pay-per-view’ event. While the likelihood of this happening is slim, it must be noted that no one thought that the live euthanasia of one of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s patients would be broadcast, but CBS jumped at that opportunity.
To quell the problem of having hundreds of people wanting to witness McVeigh’s last breath, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is considering showing the execution on closed circuit television to both victims and family members. Individual states have previously shown executions on closed-circuit television to small groups of people gathered near where executions were held, but never before has the federal government ever done so. In fact, McVeigh’s execution in May will be the first execution by the federal government since 1963. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was on federal land and therefore his execution is the responsibility of the government.
Family members of those who died in the bombing are adamantly opposed to having McVeigh’s execution broadcast publically, yet some are demanding that they be allowed to watch it on closed-circuit television.
While this seems like a contradiction, relatives argue that they will only have closure when they witness McVeigh’s final moments.
Oddly enough, the father of one of McVeigh’s victims is opposed to him being executed at all. Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie was killed at the Murrah building, told the New York Times that he is against the execution because his daughter was against the death penalty. Also, Welch is Catholic and said that he believes that “the day we kill him, we’ve assisted suicide.”
With all of the debate about what should be done regarding McVeigh’s execution, it seems as though officials do not know whose rights are the most important. It is nothing short of insane for McVeigh’s wants to be considered over the wishes of his victim’s families.
Maybe the U.S. Bureau of Prisons should take the semi-serious advice of Constance Favorite, whose daughter was killed in the bombing, and hold the execution “in the middle of an Oklahoma field.”
Christine Owen, a junior journalism major, is managing editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.