By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Mario Marquez's crime was horrible. As Ted Koppel said, "He raped and strangled a woman who was only 18, and a girl who was only a child of 14." The woman was his former wife, and the child was his niece.
What made this execution worthy of a front-page notice in the Huntsville Item was the debate over whether someone retarded should be executed. And that was one reason Nightline devoted two evenings to the last days of Mario Marquez. . . .
What does George Pataki think?
In Huntsville, Texaswhich is becoming like the German towns near the gas chambers a half-century agoanother resident says: "Since I've lived here all my life, I never even think about the prison or what's going on there. Theythey justit's all behind closed doors."
And yet another resident says calmly: "I really don't hear a whole lot about it from other people. We reallywe really don't talk about it. I think it's just so, you know, normal here."
To whom? Marquez had the mind of a seven-year-old.
Remember the old prison movies? When the electric chair began its work, the lights dimmed all over the prison and sometimes in the surrounding town. No one could escape a few moments' knowledge of the killing being done by the state in his or her name.
In Huntsvillethe prison chaplain told Ted Koppelbefore the coming of lethal injection, "when the switch was pulled, the lights all over town dimmed, so everybody had a feeling of when it was taking place."
But now, the residents of Texas, of other states with lethal injection, do not have to think about an execution when it takes place. And state killings are never shown on television, including Nightline.
Why is that? Why do officials all over the country absolutely forbid the televising of executions? They are done in our name. Why can't we see the official killings? What is the state afraid of?
[ June 11, 1996]
December 1967: Hentoff and his wife Margot (left).
Fred W. McDarrah
No money was involved. The Voice was still struggling to stay alive. But the freedom to be infuriating on a myriad of subjects eventually helped bring lecture dates, book contracts, pieces in other publications, and a syndicated column in the Washington Post.
Dan gave me the space to find my voicesdifferent tunes require different phrasing but he was also important because of his skeptical presence. In all the years I worked for himhe and Ed Fancher were defenestrated by Clay Felker in 1974Dan never changed a word or the structure of anything I wrote for the paper.
But, as I wrote, I always had him in mind. I didn't want to be the target of his quizzical look: "Do you really believe that?"
Dan despised cant and anything that had the prim self-righteousness of what later came to be called "political correctness." Many Voice writers in the early years were more radical, to say the least, than he was. But he also encouraged writers who were more conservative than he. . . .
When there was a particularly fierce controversylike the 1968 strike in which the United Federation of Teachers shut down the schools citywide to protest the new black community-controlled district in Ocean HillBrownsvillethe Voice ran scores of articles on all sides.
During that time, I was asked to speak to the Nieman Fellows at Harvard, and a professor of government, sitting in, told me how exasperated he was by the Voice.
"I never know," he said, "what the paper itself believes. I never know what it stands for."
Thinking of Dan, I told the professor, "That's the point. You can read all kinds of views in the Voice, and then make up your own mind."
Since Dan was forced out of the paper, there has not been as much true diversity in the Voice. He liked to see the Voice as a tournament of endless controversy. He himself hardly ever raised his voice, but he made his penetrating points sting for a long time.
[ September 25, 2001]
Still a pain in the ass.
photo: Fred W. McDarrah