Nun favors showing execution

Monday, April 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) _ The nun made famous in the movie ``Dead Man Walking'' favors the worldwide broadcast of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Sister Helen Prejean is a staunch opponent of the death penalty, but she said showing the execution might change Americans' opinions of capital punishment.

``We need to witness it,'' said Prejean, whose award-winning book inspired the movie and made her the voice of the death-penalty abolition movement.

``We are so separated from this, we don't see the consequences of our actions,'' said Prejean, who chairs the board of directors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Prejean, who will be speaking against the death penalty in May in Evansville and Terre Haute, just a few miles from the federal death row that houses McVeigh.

``Timothy McVeigh is the poster boy for the death penalty,'' said Prejean of the convicted killer who blew up the Oklahoma City federal building six years ago, killing 168 people. ``There is no doubt about his guilt or the terrible damage he caused, and so far he's a man without remorse.''

She believes his execution will only do harm.

``What repercussions will this reap for us as a society?'' Prejean said. ``It's a cycle of revenge. McVeigh made his point when he blew up a federal building and killed 168 people; now the government will make its point by killing him. How do we retaliate against an evil power? By retaliating ourselves.''

Prejean said she's concerned about the possibility of violence following the May 16 execution date. She said McVeigh's death may inspire violence from sympathizers of McVeigh's antagonistic anti-government views.

``We just don't know what will happen,'' she said. ``They're closing the schools in Terre Haute that day and taking a lot of security precautions. I don't know that I'd be going into a post office for a few days after (the execution).''

Prejean is committed to abolishing capital punishment because she believes all executions are morally wrong.

The Catholic catechism teaches that the state has the right to use capital punishment to protect the social good, but those circumstances would be very rare.

Prejean thinks there is a shift in public opinion regarding the death penalty, thanks largely to DNA testing and other evidence that has proved the innocence of some death row inmates in recent years.

``At the heart of it is people's basic sense of decency,'' Prejean said. ``They don't want an innocent man killed.''