3 Of 4 Favor Execution

While few Americans say they would want to watch the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a slim majority in an Associated Press poll say they support allowing survivors and victims' relatives to witness it in a special closed circuit telecast.

“If they want to see it, then let them watch it,” said 23-year-old Crystal Knowles of Ponca City, Okla., about 90 miles north of Oklahoma City. “I don't personally want to watch it, but if I had somebody hurt or killed in the explosion, I might feel different.”

Those in the poll overwhelmingly support McVeigh's execution, although more whites than blacks support it, reflecting a long-standing racial divide on the death penalty.

Those figures reflect a CBS News poll taken last month in which 76 percent of the respondents favor the execution and only 20 percent oppose it. This has grown from a 68 percent majority (25 percent opposition) in a a CBS News poll taken in 1997, just before the jury decided on the punishment.

Fifty-one percent support a planned closed-circuit telecast to survivors and relatives, according to the poll conducted for the AP by ICR of Media, Pa.

The broadcast from Terre Haute, Ind., to about 200 survivors and victims' relatives in Oklahoma City, will not be available for a wider audience — at least according to plan. The Justice Department is taking measures, including sophisticated encryption procedures, to make it unlikely that the pictures of the May 16 execution will become public.

McVeigh was convicted two years after the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. He is to become the first federal inmate executed since 1963.

McVeigh's execution by lethal injection has the support of four out of five Americans, according to the poll. About two-thirds support the death penalty for murder generally — and that number goes up when they're asked specifically about McVeigh. Death penalty support has generally been at about two-thirds in recent months, but it can vary widely depending on how the question is asked.

Whites are more likely than blacks and men more likely than women to support the death penalty.

Charlotte Roark, 48, of Sayersville, Ky., said she goes back and forth on capital punishment, thinking a “psychopathic murderer” should be put to death but also wondering whether “that's sort of like playing God.”

In the Oklahoma City case, she said, “McVeigh deserves the death penalty — when it's so disastrous like that — little children, mothers of children, fathers of children.”

More than one-fourth of death penalty opponents in the survey said they nonetheless support the execution of McVeigh. And one-third of death penalty opponents support offering the closed-circuit broadcast.

The poll of 1,004 adults was taken May 2 through Sunday and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percetage points.

While just over half support the closed-circuit broadcast, 44 percent said it is not a good idea.

“I don't think it's in the best interest of people,” said Alvin Thornton, 79, who lives outside Seattle and opposes the death penalty. “It was done in the early ages in Europe. We don't need to publicize murder by the state.”

The poll suggested that fears of terrorism in this country have dropped a bit since April 1995, when just over half said they weren't worried about an attack. Now two-thirds of Americans say they don't worry much about it.

The interest in watching McVeigh's execution is significantly higher among younger Americans, with one in four between the ages of 18 and 34 saying they would watch if they could. Only one in 20 of those over 65 said they would watch if they could.

Twenty-two-year-old Timothy Fairchild, a truck painter in Lynwood, Pa., said he opposes the death penalty generally, but not in McVeigh's case. And he'd tune in if the execution were available on TV.

“I would watch it because he put a bomb under a day care center,” Fairchild said.


© MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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