Victims’ Kin Who See Executions Feel Better, But Not Much


Washington, D.C., area sniper John Allen Muhammad was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection in Virginia, more than seven years after his last crimes. Washington Post interviews with witnesses of earlier executions find that many were disappointed. Victim’s relatives who have seen executions, says the Post, “feel better. A little. Not much. It’s not the better they thought they would feel. They can hardly explain why. They exit the room with most of the ache they carried in.” Says one: “It’s not like, ‘Whoopee!’ It’s not like a ballgame, we won, home run.”

In Virginia, relatives of the condemned are not allowed to be witnesses. More often than not, family members of victims have wanted to make the trip to the “death house” in the Greensville Correctional Center, in the little town of Jarratt, near the North Carolina border. The change in procedure was initiated in 1994 by then-Delegate. Robert McDonnell — now the governor-elect — whose proposed legislation lost by one vote in the state Senate. Supporters said bearing witness was a privilege owed to the relatives; critics said the idea was ghoulish and vengeful. Gov. George Allen enacted the provision by executive order.

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