The trial of Stephen H. Oken ended last week with the passing of the sentence that he must die in the gas chamber for the murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a young woman Oken had tricked into letting him into her apartment on the pretense of his need to make an urgent telephone call. Whether one believes in the death penalty or not, no one can quarrel with Judge James T. Smith's searing portrayal of Oken -- who had already committed at least one other murder and awaits trial for yet another -- as "a very evil and dangerous man."
Trials like this inevitably are anguishing experiences for the families of both victim and accused, who in this case were both in their 20s. But this particular trial ended amid an extraordinary outpouring of emotion and bitter recrimination. The depth of the rancor was captured in the spontaneous outburst of Dawn Marie Garvin's mother, who said, speaking of the mother of Stephen Oken, "I can't wait until she can go see her child in the cemetery. . . . Only then will she know what it's like to be a victim -- when he's gassed and they don't have him anymore."