BOB GARFIELD: Earlier this week the execution of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh dominated the news with the attention divided between the bereaved in Oklahoma and elsewhere and the events in the death chamber at Terre Haute. Among the witnesses to the execution were ten members of the media. Two of those witnesses join us now. Karen Grundin of the Terre Haute Tribune Star and Byron Pitts of CBS News who obtained his seat through a lottery operated by the Bureau of Prisons. Karen, did you have any misgivings, or did you think you were going to come through it okay?
KAREN GRUNDIN: You know I actually was pretty certain that I wouldn't have a problem with that. I, I've gone out to accident scenes before and shootings and that sort of that as the police and courts reporter at the Tribune Star, so--you know from those experiences I figured I probably would be okay with watching the execution.
BOB GARFIELD: Because you've seen dead bodies.
KAREN GRUNDIN: Correct.
BOB GARFIELD: It's-- the same?
KAREN GRUNDIN:No, it, it's not the same at all when you're actually watching someone die compared to seeing someone who is already dead. Witnessing this execution you actually saw the color of Timothy McVeigh's skin change as those drugs were coursing through his body, so it, it was quite different!
BOB GARFIELD: What about the night before? Were you sleepless?
KAREN GRUNDIN:[LAUGHS] Definitely. I-- actually got to bed about 10 p.m. and knew I had to get up around 2:00. I remember looking at the clock quite a few times, and I remember looking at it at 1:55 a.m. and thinking-- you know there's no reason to wait for the, the wakeup call. I might as well just go ahead and get up.
BOB GARFIELD:Byron Pitts-- what happened to you when you saw the drugs coursing through Timothy McVeigh's body? I mean did your respiration change? Were you nervous? Upset?
BYRON PITTS: No. Not at all. You know I watched. I was so busy, like Karen and everyone else, taking as many notes as I could; trying to, you know, keep my game face on if you will. But I didn't have any inner reaction as it happened.
BOB GARFIELD: Have you had any post-execution stress symptoms?
BYRON PITTS:No. I mean it's, it's been a few days now, but this is my second execution. It's about the 5th time in life I've actually seen someone die. And it, it's always been my sense -- it seems to me that, that-- that with each death it, it almost has like its own fingerprints. I mean each experience was very different. Two were executions; one was a dear friend of mine who was stabbed to death in front of me when I was 12. The other m--my grandmother--; she was 90; I watched her die. Those other instances - I mean they, they bothered me. They stayed with me for quite a while. Those people did nothing to deserve to die at that moment. With the two executions, whether you agree or disagree with the death penalty, it seems to me that both men had some appreciation that if I commit these crimes, this could happen to me, and so they had some control over how their lives ended.
BOB GARFIELD: How about you, Karen? What it difficult before, during or after?
KAREN GRUNDIN:I, unlike Byron, I had never really watched someone die before. And so-- you know I, I'll give it a little more time, but I just don't see that I'm going to have-- any anguish over it.
BOB GARFIELD:Byron you were there because you were the lottery winner; Karen, you because you work for the Tribune Star. In the larger sense, though, why were you there? Why did the media need to be present for this?
KAREN GRUNDIN: Well, you know, I think that part of our role is to make sure that the execution is carried out as the government has said it would be--; as best as we can determine that from witnessing it, that is part of our role, and our other role is to report what we saw.
BOB GARFIELD: Byron?
BYRON PITTS:My mother raised me -- she used to always say, said Son--: the truth may hurt; the truth may be funny; it may be ugly, but the truth is always the truth. And so therefore I think there is some value as journalists in witnessing things regardless of what that might be, if given the opportunity, to hopefully when it's over report to people what it is that you saw fairly and as objective as you could.
BOB GARFIELD: Having seen what you've seen, do you think that-- televising capital punishment will alter the debate in this country? Karen?
KAREN GRUNDIN:Well, you know I'm not sure that it would. You know I think it may depend on how the execution was carried out - whether it was lethal injection or maybe some other form of execution. In my case it didn't. It may just be an individual sort of thing.
KAREN GRUNDIN: I would agree. I would think that most people would look at it and would be surprised at how clinical the whole process is and how void of emotion the moment is -- how disciplined the people who carry it out are. Again, in most cases when it goes the way it's designed to go. Ten journalists -- we all saw it. We all were there to be objective - but I think all of us on some level saw different things. So I'm not sure if witnessing an execution would do a whole lot to shift the nation's debate, though I think it might.
BOB GARFIELD:Karen your beat as criminal justice reporter at the Terre Haute Tribune Star is such that you'll be witnessing other executions. Any fear about that? Can - do you think you can witness too many? Something can happen to you?
KAREN GRUNDIN: That's a good question and I'm not sure. I mean I, I would think that maybe there would be a point where there would be too many. I'm not really sure how many more I will witness. There's a possibility I will witness Juan Raul Garza's if it goes as scheduled on Tuesday. As far as whether that'll be a problem -- you know if it goes like Mr. McVeigh's execution did, I -- I don't see that I would have a problem with that, but it's another thing I'll just have to wait and see about really.
BOB GARFIELD: Is this something you're going to get used to?
KAREN GRUNDIN:No. I, I don't think you would want to get used to witnessing an execution, to become calloused against, you know, death or you know a lethal injection -- I, I, I don't think would be a good thing at all.
BOB GARFIELD:All right. Karen Grundin, thank you very much for joining us. Karen Grundin of the Terre Haute Tribune Star and Byron Pitts of CBS News, thanks very much for being with us.