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Killing McVeighReview - Killing McVeigh
The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure
by Jody Lyneť Madeira
NYU Press, 2012
Review by Leo Uzych
Sep 17th 2013 (Volume 17, Issue 38)

Killing McVeigh is a book about the April 19, 1995 bombing, by Timothy McVeigh, of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  The author, Jody Lyneé Madeira, is an Associate Professor of  Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, in Bloomington, Indiana.  The writing of Madeirais clothed distinctly with an edifying garb of relative abstruseness.  But the substantive body of the book is suffused anecdotally with a great abundance of quotes culled from "family members" (of persons murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing) and from "survivors" (of the Oklahoma City bombing).  In a fascinating albeit sobering way, these quotes, individually and collectively, bring the book out of the realm of abstruseness and into the area of real life.

In an "Appendix", Madeira comments tersely on the book's methodology, extending to terse comment regarding:  the recruitment of persons to be interviewed; interviewing methods and procedures, utilized by Madeira; and recontact interviews.

Extensive research referencing is an importantly defining feature of the book.  Copious, chapter by chapter citations for textually pertinent research materials are given in a "Notes" structural section, placed structurally after the Appendix.  Some of the Notes provide instructively annotated comment.

Assorted photographs, with annotation, add further to the text's instructiveness.

In a "Preface", Madeira draws some of the lineaments outlining the book's genesis.  Notably, in this regard, readers are informed that Madeira's father was killed in a car accident in 1984.

Following the Preface are eleven chapters.

Chapter 1 starts with first impressions  of McVeigh, when family members and survivors had the opportunity to first glimpse McVeigh when the Oklahoma City bombing suspect made his "perp walk", on April 21, 1995.  As the chapter unfolds, Madeira toilsomely unearths some of the roots of the victim offender relationship.

Commencing in Chapter 1, and continuing throughout the book, Madeira strives hard to assiduously construct a multi layered structural edifice.  One layer is constructed anecdotally with bricks formed of quotes, prominently including multitudinous quotes collected from family members and survivors; the bricks thus formed contribute materially to the real life nature of the book's substantive composition.  Typically, these substantively enlivening bricks are held together firmly with the glue of insightful and edifying comment by Madeira joined tightly to their content.  Another layer of the textual edifice is composed of discourse by Madeira notable, characteristically, for  being expertly informative and thoughtfully opinionated; much of this discourse is focused very sharply on the Oklahoma City bombing, although some of it has a relevantly wider viewing focus.

The spotlight of Madeira's attention, in Chapter 2, is shined in illumining fashion on the experiencing of the victim offender relationship,  The toxicity, for family members and survivors, of the intrusion of McVeigh into their lives is described forthrightly. Effects of the presence of Terry Nichols (charged in the Oklahoma City bombing) and Michael Fortier (indicted for several crimes), in the lives of family members and survivors, likewise draw  Madeira's rapt gaze.

In Chapter 3, Madeira opens the curtain to a revealing look at "closure", principally in the frame of closure for family members and survivors.  Some of the historically evolving contours of the law, shaping closure, are traced by Madeira.  In the enframing context of closure, Madeira further expounds esoterically on reflexivity and  on intervention.

The eyes of Madeira are turned, in Chapter 4, in the direction of "advocacy groups", of particular pertinence to family members and survivors.

The news media, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, rises to the substantive fore of Chapter 5.

And then, in Chapter 6, Madeira intellectually follows the pursuit, by family members and survivors, of accountability for the Oklahoma City bombing.

Centerstage is reserved substantively, in Chapter 7, for the prosecuting of McVeigh.  Some quotes gleaned from U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch (charged with overseeing the trials of McVeigh and Nichols), and embedded in the textual terrain, contribute informatively to its substance.  Emotion, concerning McVeigh's prosecution, notably attracts the riveting scrutiny of Madeira.

After McVeigh's prosecution (resulting in a death sentence), Madeira next considers, in following Chapter 8, the federal trial of Nichols (resulting in a sentence of life without parole).  The subsequent filing of state charges against Nichols; the legal fate of Fortier; and the visit of the McVeigh jury to Oklahoma City further absorb the discerning attention of Madeira.

The awaiting of the execution of McVeigh, and some attendant issues, are placed under the microscope of Madeira's expertly peering eyes, in Chapter 9.  Madeira's expert examination of the issue of whether family members and survivors should view McVeigh's execution; whether they could, or should, forgive McVeigh; and their mixed views regarding the death penalty will likely hold readers in thrall.

Readers will also likely be enthralled, in Chapter 10, by the composite of McVeigh cobbled together by Madeira, including bits and pieces of letters penned by McVeigh and parts of interviews conducted with McVeigh.  These data, in likely enthralling manner, shed revealing light on:  the motivation of McVeigh, regarding the Oklahoma City bombing; McVeigh's feelings towards victims of the Oklahoma City bombing; and McVeigh's belief that the media demonized him.

The executing of McVeigh,. on June 11, 2001, forms the substantive cornerstone, of concluding Chapter 11.  Effects of witnessing the execution; reactions of family members and survivors; McVeigh's gaze, as he was being executed; and various dimensions of silence, with respect to McVeigh's execution, fall within the ken of Madeira.

In a "Conclusion" (following Chapter 11), Madeira brings readers' attention to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, in the context of the legacy of the Oklahoma City bombing.

From a research perspective, it is noteworthy that the profusion of quotes collected anecdotally by Madeira from family members and survivors were collected from a relatively small sample population of persons.

Cautious readers may opine that every person's experience with personal tragedy is unique.

It may further be noted cautiously that particular expert views put forth by Madeira may be at variance with those of other experts.

But Madeira's erudite discourse tethered to the Oklahoma City bombing, connected seamlessly with a great abundance of quotes drawn especially from family members and survivors, offer much food for fulfilling intellectual digestion.

The relatively abstruse nature of the book makes it particularly suitable reading for professionals, encompassing criminal justice, news media, and mental health professionals.

 

© 2013 Leo Uzych

 

Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.  Twitter @LeoUzych


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