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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 17, 1995)
Continued from Page 1
totally conventional,” she said. “It’s
an amazingly quiet place.”
In Ireland, she said, people strive
to be individuals.
“We try to be as unconventional as
possible,” she said.
People in Ireland hang out in pubs
and talk to each other on a one-on-one
basis, she said, which she misses in
Kennedy said she missed a lot of
things about her home country, espe
cially Ireland’s rolling green hills,
■ ... ■
shown on a poster hanging near her
But that’s not all she missed.
“The potatoes here are so bad,” she
said. “I miss my potatoes. The food
service — they crucify them!”
She also discovered that Ireland’s
trademark Guinness beer doesn’t taste
as good outside the Emerald Isle.
But on St. Patrick’s Day, these dif
ferences don’t matter.
In Ireland, she said, St. Patrick’s
is celebrated by spending time with
family and friends at home or at the
local pub — drinking Guinness, of
111 . .. ..inmm —
But Kennedy said she didn’t know
why people in America wanted to say
they were Irish. A lot of Irish-Ameri
cans spend time tracing their roots in
Ireland, she said.
“You get these American tourists
in Ireland searching our graveyards
and churches and showing up on your
doorstep saying, ‘Hey, we’re your rela
tives,’” she said, laughing, “even if
they are seven-times removed.”
“In America, you’re diversified,”
she said. “In Ireland, if you’re Irish,
you’re Irish through and through.”
Kennedy said her accent gave her
real Irish heritage away, and people
started asking questions—especially
if she was in the Irish Republican
“That’s like asking someone in the
U.S.A. ‘Are you in the mafia?”’ she
The troubles in Northern Ireland
have been raging for more than a cen
tury between the mainly-Catholic re
publican IRA, which wants a united
Ireland under Irish rule, and the Prot
estant loyal unionists, who want North
ern Ireland to remain under British
Now, there’s talk of peace between
the two sides.
But Kennedy said the answer fori
peace wouldn’t be found through talks.:
Instead, it would be found in Ireland’s
young generation—her generation.
“These killings have got to stop,”.*
she said. “People are moving out of)
Ireland. I don’t want to be stuck in a
place that’s so small-minded.”
The violence has given Ireland a
undeserved bad image, she said, when i
it’s actually a safe, welcoming place
“I hope so much that it works out,” t
she said, “and Ireland can be itself!
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A Last Minute
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Continued from Page 1
electric chair. It was the longest two
minutes Boellstorff said she ever ex
perienced. During that time, she said,
the room had a strained silence.
Mike McKnight of WOWT-TV in
Omaha knows that silence.
He had turned on a tape recorder in
another room when the witnesses met
Otey to get his last words. When Otey
shrugged at the opportunity and turned
back to his room, McKnight said he
dropped the recorder in his pocket and
forgot to turn it off.
For a long time, all that can be
heard on the tape is a clickingof shoes
on the tile floor as witnesses paced.
When that stops, there is a long pause,
he said, until the silence is broken by
a dull thunk—the first of three elec
trical jolts sent through Otey’s body.
McKnight and Howard both said
they struggled to concentrate during
the moments the execution was being
“Your heart is racing,” McKnight
said. “I’ve got to keep watching,” he
remembers telling himself after the
first jolt. “This is my job. Just concen
trate on what you see and write it
Then there is the finality, said Lin
coln Journal reporter Bill Kriefel.
There is the end to a case that has
captured headlines and lived with the
community for years.
Paul Wice, news director for
KGFW radio in Kearney, said he had
flashbacks of that night every time he
drove into Lincoln. He remembers the
hours leading up to the execution in
detail. The anticipation was more dif
ficult than the actual witnessing, he
“As a reporter, you tend to distance
yourself from the case at hand,” W ice
said. “But it’s the thoughts that go
through your mind ahead of time.”
For Boellstorff, it also was the
thoughts that went through her mind
She requested more interviews with
Otey than she said she could remem
ber—all were denied or ignored. She
felt snubbed because of that, she said,
and somewhat resentful toward Otey.
Boellstorffhad covered the death pen
alty and Otey case since 1987. She
needed questions answered.
But the night she witnessed Otey’s
execution, Boellstorff said she left
with the feeling that she had betrayed
For several nights afterward,
Boellstorff dreamed she was sitting in
a prison room talking with Otey. In the
dream, she explained to him why she
had witnessed his execution.
Boellstorff said she sorted things
out that way.
“Sometimes 1 still can’t believe
Wili is gone,” Boellstorff said. “He
was never a real strong presence in my
life. But I watched him die.”
Unlike Otey, Williams has shied
from public attention and expressed
remorse and guilt for his crimes. His
execution date has been stayed by a
court order only once. Thursday, Wil
liams received his second rejection in
three days from the federal courts
whose favor he must gain to stay alive.
Vince Powers, a lawyer for Will
iams, said the requests had been made
to allow time for an appeal to the U.S.
One of the issues Powers might
raise is based on an earlier decision of
the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
That court ruled the state erred in
Williams’ sentencing by applyingmea
sures that were unconstitutional.
But the ruling then allowed the
federal appeals court to act as a state
sentencing court, Powers said. The
court reviewed the case and concluded e
the error was harmless.
Powers said it was the first time the;
8th Circuit had made such a ruling,;
joining only one other appeals court in i
the country. The Supreme Court has
never decided the issue.
Williams also can request a clem
ency hearing before the Board of Par
dons. He only recently gave his law
yers permission to request such a hear
ing if it was warranted.
While Williams’ lawyers battled in
the courts, prison officials began
preparation for a second execution.
Final witnesses for the Williams ex
ecution were named last fall.
John Cox, news director at KELN/
KOOQ radio in North Platte, said he
remembered being numb with disbe
lief when he first got a call in October
asking the station to participate.
“I have no idea what will happen,”
Cox said. “Starting when March 1
finally arrived, you start very seri
ously thinking about it — a lot. But 1
don’t think a day has gone by since
October that I haven’t thought about it
7 have been a reporter <
for 28 years. I have seem
a lot of death and a lot
of dying. But it goes
without saying that one
does not forget the sights,
of watching another
person die. ”
Associated Press reporter
“Whether or not it actually hap
pens, it has been a very profound
Witnesses were asked to arrive at
the prison by 9:30 p.m. on March 21.
They will present a letter to prison
security, certifying that they are ofifi-1
cial witnesses. Penitentiary officials j
run through procedures to familiarize
the witnesses with what to expect.
Then they wait.
Terri Teuber, a reporter for KOLN/1
KGIN television in Lincoln, said she l
remembered waiting for the Otey ex-:
ecution. She reported witness reac
tion that night, and she remembers,
their faces and their unease.
“I don’t know if there is any way to
prepare,” Teuber said. “If there is, I
haven’t found it.”
Paul Hammel, an Omaha World
Herald reporter, said he was one of thd
few betting the execution would be
If not, Hammel said he had a re
sponsibility to watch Williams die.
“This is really a horrible, horrible:
irony of our business,” Hammel said
“This is one of the rarest opportunities
for a journalist, yet it is likely to be one
of the most horrible experiences.
“I didn’t think twice about saying
yes, but I’ve had a lot of second
thoughts later about what I’m going to
The problems with executions lie
in what the executions represent, what
comes before them and the setting in
which they take place, witnesses said.
“It is a horrific thing,” Howard
said. “But is my soul touched more by
the sadness of that situation than it is
by the sadness of an infant being
slipped into a body bag? I would not
make a comparison. They are not to be
“Each sadness that we are witness:
to is self- contained.”
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