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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2001

Death penalty foes win with McVeigh media circus

Some items while licking my wounds after a reader called me “the worst excuse for a columnist the Toledo Blade has ever employed”:

SURREAL: Did you watch the television coverage of Timothy McVeigh's execution? Talk about surreal. I hadn't experienced anything like that since being fixated on a slow-speed chase involving a white Ford Bronco in 1994.

So how do you feel about the death penalty now? I'm guessing the “anti” camp showed a net gain in members.

Take the evolution of one of the loyal readers of this column, for example.

On April 23, Dave wrote this in response to something I wrote about the death penalty: “You may not be able to glean it from my comments, writing, and opinions, but I am pretty religious. So I have really begun to struggle with the death penalty. The Ten Commandments did not come with exceptions for punishment. However, neither do they say anything that would prevent us from stringing up guys like McVeigh with his testicles attached to separate Mack trucks pointing in opposite directions waiting for the flag to drop.”

Ouch. Even though it wouldn't pass a constitutional challenge for “cruel and unusual punishment,” Dave captured the sentiment of many Americans at the time.

Then, we got a dose of reality on Monday, when McVeigh - whose 1995 Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people - was executed at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Dave checked in again Monday, responding, as he does each week, to the column-ending questions. Here's what he wrote: “After watching the events surrounding McVeigh's execution, I found that I have finally solidified my position on capital punishment. I find that it is no longer acceptable to take a life as punishment for any crime.”

Just two months ago, Dave had no problem with McVeigh's execution being carried out with the aid of Mack trucks. Now, he believes we should have let the 33-year-old McVeigh live. No doubt some of you had a similar transformation.

I'm still mulling where I stand on the death penalty. I didn't waver on my stance in the McVeigh case, however - justice was served. It was a “message” that we needed to send, to nobody in particular, but to the world in general.

If we didn't execute someone who admitted killing 168 people, how could we ever execute anybody ever again?

TOUR GUIDES: So much for my thinking that “controversial” topics generate the most reader feedback. Last week's column-ending questions drew a record response, mainly because I asked readers to suggest places to spend a day with a visiting 12-year-old niece from Georgia. I mentioned that we had already gone to Franklin Park Mall, Cedar Point, the Toledo Zoo, and COSI.

The 10 most popular suggestions, in order: Put-in-Bay, Sauder Village, Greenfield Village, Oak Openings Metropark, Toledo Botanical Garden, Toledo Museum of Art, Wildwood Metropark, Maumee Bay State Park, a Mud Hens game, and, in somewhat of a surprise, the Cabela's store in Dundee, Mich.

HALF A SIX PACK: Three questions this week. In honor of my 83-year-old dad on Father's Day, I'm offering 83 points for each correct answer. (Note: Click on the link below -- "Feedback: June 10 column" -- and check out reader response to last week's questions.)

1) In the soft drink commercial featuring Britney Spears, don't you feel embarrassed for Bob Dole for looking like a dirty old man?

2) Aren't we a little bit selfish for not taking Ozone Action Days much more seriously than we do?

3) Won't the Jennifer Capriati story make for a great movie one day?

Russ Lemmon's column appears Sundays. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail rlemmon@theblade.com.



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