TERRE HAUTE, IN: The federal penitentiary here had seven of its own
public affairs officers on board to deal with the estimated 1,600
members of the media requesting permits for the execution of Timothy
McVeigh. But the facility let the 10 reporters selected to watch the
procedure act as spokespeople.
Five of the PA officers were drafted from surrounding prisons, according
to James Cross, executive assistant to the warden. All were available 24
hours a day during the weeks leading up to the execution.
Cross did not recruit a PR agency to assist with publicity, but said
Meeting & Events Professionals, a local firm, helped stage the press
conference that was beamed around the world.
The prison and the media were not the only parties working overtime,
So were the communications staffs of organizations protesting the death
penalty. Amnesty USA sent three spokespeople to the site.
They helped mobilize a 200-plus protest march from a local church to the
prison the day before the execution, Sunday, June 10.
Amnesty also made death-penalty protester Bud Welch, whose daughter died
in the blast, available to the press. Media hits the day of the
execution included the AP and CNN's Inside Politics, with numerous other
mentions before and since.
One of Amnesty's primary objectives was to persuade reporters that
America is out of step with the rest of the Western world.
Eliane Drakopoulos, media director for Amnesty USA, said: "The US is
isolated from its allies. It is one of the top four in the world in
terms of number of executions. That was one of the key messages."
The international group worked in partnership with other organizations
such as Citizens United for an Alternative to the Death Penalty, the
National Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Murder
Victims' Families for Reconciliation and the American Civil Liberties
Drakopoulos said Amnesty's next move is to request a meeting with
attorney general John Ashcroft.
In addition, Citizens for a Moratorium on Federal Executions has hired
Riptide Communications to help publicize a letter to President Bush
about the imminent execution of Juan Garza, the next federal death row
inmate, set to die June 19.
Separately, animal rights group PETA also used the death of McVeigh to
draw attention to its own vegetarian cause. It wrote to McVeigh to ask
him not to eat meat during his last meal - which turned out to be mint
chocolate chip ice cream.