TIME IS RUNNING out for Frank Coppola.

Tonight, at some time between 11 o'clock and midnight, he is scheduled to die in the electric chair in Richmond for the 1978 murder of a Newport News woman.

Time is also running out for Gov. Charles S. Robb, who within the next few hours will have to make one of the toughest decisions likely to confront him during his tenure in office. Only he can stop or postpone the execution. Gov. Robb has been in Tulsa, Okla., for the last few days attending the National Governors Association conference, but the Coppola case has gone with him. Although the convicted murderer has refused to allow further appeals of his case in the courts, the governor has continued to receive legal briefs and petitions on the matter. The executive office has received and tallied hundreds of communications concerning the case. They are running 10 to 1 against the execution and are 85 percent from out of state and overseas. But a clemency decision cannot, and will not, be made on the basis of numbers or a public opinion poll. This is both a legal and a moral judgment. As a matter of law, is it wise to proceed with an execution when appeals have not been exhausted--even though that is the will of the prisoner--and when the state's capital punishment law has not been cleared by the highest courts? Morally, the question is an old and fundamental one: does the biblical injunction against killing apply to us collectively or just individually?

In Colonial times, dozens of offenses were punishable by death in Virginia. Some of them wouldn't get you 30 days in jail today. Western societies have moved away from capital punishment, and we are now appalled to read that in some parts of the world women are stoned to death for adultery and men meet firing squads for black marketeering. Only five men have been executed in the United States since 1967, and the electric chair has not been used in Richmond for 20 years. It will be tragic if the state takes the first step backward tonight.

Frank Coppola says he wants to die. Execution, he believes, is preferable to life on death row. But the choice is not his to make, and the governor is not bound by his wishes. A decision by the governor to halt this execution would not be made because it's right for Frank Coppola, but because it's right for the people of Virginia. As he flies home from Tulsa this evening, his plane connected by an open phone wire to the prison, Gov. Robb will still have time to stay the executioner's hand. A decision to do so will bring honor to the state and the people who elected him. Fair Warning --

Most dogs don't bite, but anything with teeth can and probably will if provoked. In these situations, either avoid or approach with extreme care:

A mother dog with puppies.

A dog that is tied up or confined, and the owner isn't around.

Any dog, even your own, that is eating, resting or asleep.

Any sick or injured dog.

A group of dogs running together.

Additionally, warn Drs. Michael Fox and Alan Beck:

Never try to separate two fighting dogs with your bare hands. One or both dogs may redirect their aggression toward you.

Never put your hand through a fence or into a car to pet a strange dog. That is basically asking for it.

Never leave an infant alone with a dog. Any dog. "It's stupid to deny that dogs are animals," says Beck. "You should treat the dog like any other potentially dangerous thing." EDITORIAL

Gov. Robb's Decision

TIME IS RUNNING out for Frank Coppola.

Tonight, at some time between 11 o'clock and midnight, he is scheduled to die in the electric chair in Richmond for the 1978 murder of a Newport News woman.

Time is also running out for Gov. Charles S. Robb, who within the next few hours will have to make one of the toughest decisions likely to confront him during his tenure in office. Only he can stop or postpone the execution. Gov. Robb has been in Tulsa, Okla., for the last few days attending the National Governors Association conference, but the Coppola case has gone with him. Although the convicted murderer has refused to allow further appeals of his case in the courts, the governor has continued to receive legal briefs and petitions on the matter. The executive office has received and tallied hundreds of communications concerning the case. They are running 10 to 1 against the execution and are 85 percent from out of state and overseas. But a clemency decision cannot, and will not, be made on the basis of numbers or a public opinion poll. This is both a legal and a moral judgment. As a matter of law, is it wise to proceed with an execution when appeals have not been exhausted--even though that is the will of the prisoner--and when the state's capital punishment law has not been cleared by the highest courts? Morally, the question is an old and fundamental one: does the biblical injunction against killing apply to us collectively or just individually?

In Colonial times, dozens of offenses were punishable by death in Virginia. Some of them wouldn't get you 30 days in jail today. Western societies have moved away from capital punishment, and we are now appalled to read that in some parts of the world women are stoned to death for adultery and men meet firing squads for black marketeering. Only five men have been executed in the United States since 1967, and the electric chair has not been used in Richmond for 20 years. It will be tragic if the state takes the first step backward tonight.

Frank Coppola says he wants to die. Execution, he believes, is preferable to life on death row. But the choice is not his to make, and the governor is not bound by his wishes. A decision by the governor to halt this execution would not be made because it's right for Frank Coppola, but because it's right for the people of Virginia. As he flies home from Tulsa this evening, his plane connected by an open phone wire to the prison, Gov. Robb will still have time to stay the executioner's hand. A decision to do so will bring honor to the state and the people who elected him.