Killing Mcveigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure

Overview


On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a two-ton truck bomb that felled the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. On June 11, 2001, an unprecedented 242 witnesses watched him die by lethal injection.

In the aftermath of the bombings, American public commentary almost immediately turned to “closure” rhetoric. Reporters and audiences alike speculated about whether victim’s family members and survivors could get closure from memorial ...

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Killing McVeigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure

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Overview


On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a two-ton truck bomb that felled the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. On June 11, 2001, an unprecedented 242 witnesses watched him die by lethal injection.

In the aftermath of the bombings, American public commentary almost immediately turned to “closure” rhetoric. Reporters and audiences alike speculated about whether victim’s family members and survivors could get closure from memorial services, funerals, legislation, monuments, trials, and executions. But what does “closure” really mean for those who survive—or lose loved ones in—traumatic acts? In the wake of such terrifying events, is closure a realistic or appropriate expectation?

In Killing McVeigh, Jody Lyneé Madeira uses the Oklahoma City bombing as a case study to explore how family members and other survivors come to terms with mass murder. As the fullest case study to date of the Oklahoma City Bombing survivors’ struggle for justice and the first-ever case study of closure, this book describes the profound human and institutional impacts of these labors to demonstrate the importance of understanding what closure really is before naively asserting it can or has been reached.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Madeira proves a sensitive, nuanced, and empathetic witness to the painful journeys of the [Oklahoma City] survivors' and victims' families."-Contemporary Psychology,

"Clearly written and persuasive, this is an important contribution to the literature of closure."-Harry Charles,Library Journal

"Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether the execution of murderers can offer 'closure' to the victims’ loved ones. Finally, we have a study that has investigated the largest, most media-saturated mass murder and execution in recent times—the Oklahoma City bombing and the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Madeira’s in-depth, fair-minded, and sensitive account opens a window for us into the struggles of those affected and explores the complicated role that our public institutions of criminal justice play in the complex and difficult work of reconstructing life after atrocity."-Carol Steiker,Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

“Intense yet compassionate, Killing McVeigh is a window into the horror, trauma and outrage experienced by the survivors and family members of the 168 victims murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing. This important volume thoughtfully chronicles the challenges encountered in the victims' quest for healing, testifies to the importance of attending to anger and grieving, and affirms the continuation of life in the aftermath of murder and loss. Madeira provides us with a blueprint for reengaging with closure and healing, penetrating glib rhetoric to chronicle both the blessings of friendship and community and the wrenching experiences of incessant media crisis coverage and capital proceedings, while identifying new challenges that confront us in this age of terrorism."-Sister Helen Prejean,author of Dead Man Walking

"Sixteen years after the horror of the Oklahoma City bombing, it may now be possible to examine that dark day with some objectivity. In Killing McVeigh, Professor Madeira offers a faithful account of what followed through the words of victims and survivors. Her analysis shows how the death penalty forced so much energy and focus to be put on McVeigh, and how difficult it is to make sense of such a tragedy." -Richard C. Dieter,Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center

Library Journal
In this investigation of the concept of closure after a traumatic event, Madeira (law, Indiana Univ.) provides a comprehensive case study of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 2001 execution of its perpetrator, Timothy McVeigh. She begins the book, based on seven years of work, with a description of the public's perception of McVeigh, shaped by his public arrest and media depiction. Taking readers through the arrest, media coverage, trial, and execution as seen through the eyes of the surviving victims, she also explores the significance of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Through extensive interviews with survivors and the families of the deceased, Madeira studies the meaning of "closure" and concludes that it is a myth. The book is laid out chronologically and benefits from extensive time the author spent with survivors as well as her insight into McVeigh's motives, the judge's handling of the trial, and the legal changes that resulted from the crime. VERDICT Clearly written and persuasive, this is an important contribution to the literature of closure. Recommended.—Harry Charles, St. Louis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814796108
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Jody Lyneé Madeira is Associate Professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

The Oklahoma City Bombing: A Time Line

Preface

Part I: Blood Relations

1 “A Rude Awakening”:

The Origins of the Victim-Offender Relationship

2 “He Broke into My Life”:

Experiencing the Victim-Offender Relationship

3 Opening Up “Closure”: Redefining a Controversial Term

Part II: Traumas and Trials

4 “We Come Here to Remember”: Joining Advocacy Groups

5 “God Bless the Media”: Negotiating News Coverage

6 “Making Sure Justice Was Served”: Pursuing Accountability

Part III: The Road to Execution

7 Emotion on Trial: Prosecuting Timothy McVeigh

8 Reaching Law’s Limits: Trying Terry Nichols

and Welcoming the McVeigh Jury to Oklahoma City

9 The Storm before the Calm: Awaiting McVeigh’s Execution

10 The Weight of an Impossible World:

McVeigh Confronts His Public Image

vi | Contents

11 Done to Death: The Execution and the End

of the Victim-Offender Relationship

Conclusion: McVeigh Memorialized

Appendix: Methodology

Notes

Index

About the Author

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