Bloodstock: Reflections on the Execution of Timothy McVeigh

Mark S. Hamm, Indiana State University

This paper offers some critical reflections on the execution of Timothy James McVeigh at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on August 11, 2001--the most publicized and controversial case of capital punishment in American history, if not world history. The observations are based on my seven-year research on McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing; my role as an anti-death penalty activist, media analyst for the execution, and citizen of the Terre Haute community. The execution drew more than 3,000 media representatives from around the globe, creating a superficial celebrity culture that offered varying degrees of insight into McVeigh, the bombing, and criminal justice processes. These insights ranged from the well-informed to hyperbolic to premeditated stupidity, Fredrich Nietsche's piercing term for a social condition effecting the clogged, the anesthetized, the numb. What these analysts missed, generally, were the unintended consequences of the execution: the brutalization effect (an increase in local murder rates, animal sacrifices, etc.), the important changes made to the proportionality rule in federal death penalty cases, McVeigh's deliberate strategy to effect these changes, and--maybe most importantly--the martyrdom of Timothy McVeigh within the international racist right.

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Updated 05/20/2006