At the corner of 15th and H Streets, NW, hundreds of miles away from the site of the electrocution of a convicted Florida murderer, Eugene Evans looked at the clock in a window behind his sidewalk fruit stand.
"They killed him at 10, huh?" said the elderly man, stopping to think of the execution of John A. Spenkelink, only the second person executed in the United States in 12 years. "Well. . .in my judgment people have gotten so mean, robbing and killing everyone these days, maybe this will shake them up a little bit.
"The Bible says, 'Thou shalt not kill' but here I am running this fruit stand. [Suppose] "a man comes up and wants to blow my brains out for $25, Suppose he'd done it". Evans went on. "I'd say kill him, too."
Random conversations with about 30 people in downtown Washington after Spenkelink's execution showed that they, like Evans, seemed to support the death penalty by about 3 to 1.
A policeman, two grayhaired women, a defense attorney coming out of court, a hairdresser, and a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses were among those who generally expressed the view that the execution of murderers might save citizens' lives by giving a potential murderer something to fear.
Their views contrasted sharply with those of about 20 persons who demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court at 9 a.m. to protest the execution.
Five were arrested after they went into the Supreme Court Building with a tourist group and at the hour of the execution, 10 a.m., began chanting "Thou Shalt Not Kill!" and "No More Executions!"
Seven other demonstrators were arrested after they sat down on the court's steps at 10 a.m. and refused to move.
After the execution, former attorney general Ramsey Clark told reporters outside the Court that "peace through violence won't work.
"It the idea of executing a criminal,) is clearly related to war," said Clark "It's the belief that you can control people by killing them."
Clark had delivered papers aimed at winning a last minute stay of execution. Justice Thurgood Marshall had temporarily blocked the execution Wednesday morning, giving the Court time to review the case at its regular Thursday conference. But the court took no action yesterday to stop the execution.
"I was greatly disappointed that the court did not stay the execution," said Mark Lee, a member of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which took part in the protest at the court.
"The blood of the man who died today is on the hands of a lot of people."
Lee's sentiments are not in line with those of about 30 Washingtonians interviewed. Most said a convicted murderer, such as Spenkelink, a drifter who was convicted in 1973 of killing, a companion in a Tallahassee, Fla., motel, should be executed.
"I read the Bible and try to be a Christian," said Elsie Hutchinson, 82, who was sitting with Anna M. Shore, 88, on a bench on F street. "But when a man takes somebody's life, well he's not thinking about the victim so why should we be thinking about him."
At Chico's a hairstyling salon, hairdresser Lisa Parker said a friend had been raped and blackmailed.
"I'm for it (capital punishment)," said Parker. "When a man does something like that he should be killed."
Federal Armored Express guard Sylvester Cotton said he was not committed to the death penalty, but without a deterrent, he added, people would "think nothing of killing somebody and taking a free ride to jail for a few year . . ."
Near Superior Court, D.C. policeman James Walker said he favored the death penalty for premeditated murder and for murdering a policeman. "I think it deters criminals," he said. The District does not have the death penalty.
A lawyer from Africa coming from the court said that "as a defense counsel I could not approve of (capital punishment)" but for premediated murder "I would not oppose it . . ."
Krist Petropoulos, a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses interviewed at 10th and F streets cited the biblical injunction of "an eye for an eye . . ." and added: 'evil is on the increase. And now people are moving to protect themselves . . ." CAPTION: Picture 1, Protesters near governor's office react to execution. AP; Picture 2, John Arthur Spenkelink, executed at the age of 30. AP