BOB GARFIELD: This week the Gallup organization released a new poll. Gallup asked just over a thousand adults if they would watch the upcoming execution of Timothy McVeigh if it were broadcast on television. Of course the federal government has decided to air the execution only on closed circuit TV for the families of McVeigh's 168 victims. Though 81 percent of those polled agreed McVeigh should be executed, less than a quarter said they would choose to watch if it were on national TV. Later in this our we'll present a range of opinions concerning the potential impact of televised executions. But first we will air a brief excerpt of the execution of Ivon Ray Stanley. By doing so we take the position that hearing the tape will inform the argument for or against playing it. It's a paradoxical position, but there is it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:What you are about to hear is a moment by moment narration by a prison official who's watching the procedure through a one way mirror. The booming sounds are doors slamming elsewhere in the institution. There's no sound from the execution chamber; no sound of electricity. Only the voices of the participants. The portion we will play begins after Ivon Ray Stanley has been strapped into the electric chair. If you choose not to listen you can rejoin us after one minute and 45 seconds.
MAN: The-- wires have been attached and secured to the headset and to the leg bands. The perspiration has been wiped again from the condemned's forehead and the hood is being placed on at this time.
MAN: [...?...] 12:15 [??] [...?...].
MAN: The face hood has been secured.
MAN: All - the warden and all execution team members have departed the execution chamber. Stand by for the warden's last telephone check.
MAN: Ralph, this is commissioner.
MAN: Yes, sir.
MAN: There are no stays. You can proceed to carry out the official order of the court.
MAN: Very well. On my count of 3-- press your buttons. 1-- 2-- 3. [BOOMING SOUNDS]
MAN: Colonel Lowe? [sp?]
MAN: The execution is now in progress. The-- when it first -- fir--surge entered his body, he stiffened and I heard a pop as if one of the--straps broke but I can't tell you from this vantage point. He is still at this time sitting there with clenched fists with no other movements. He's slowly relaxing at this time. [BOOMING SOUNDS]
MAN: The first phase of the execution is completed. We are now into the second phase. The second phase is completed at this time. [BOOMING SOUNDS] We are now into the third and final stage. [BOOMING SOUNDS] From my vantage point it seems that the inmate has relaxed somewhat. His fists are still clenched but there is no movement from the condemned. [BOOMING SOUNDS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:We want to know your reaction to our program this week. Do you believe executions should be broadcast, and what do you see as the missing pieces of this story. Write us at email@example.com. We also invite you to our web site at onthemedia.org. There you'll find more information including the link to all of the Georgia Department of Corrections tapes obtained by Sound Portraits Productions. You can also hear the entire program of The Execution Tapes: A Public Radio Special at wnyc.org. [MUSIC] 18:30
BOB GARFIELD: In the next part of the program listeners respond to the broadcast of the execution tapes.
WOMAN: Over the past few years I feel like I've gotten less and less strongly against capital punishment and hearing these tapes today convinced me that I'm not anti-capital punishment.
BOB GARFIELD:Also the arguments for and against televised executions and how the victims' rights movement has affected the coverage of crime and punishment in America.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You're listening to NPR's On the Media.