- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2001

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The U.S. government patiently waited to get in the last word this morning as American terrorist Timothy McVeigh continued his torrent of verbal abuse, blaming federal authorities for a crime that killed 168 persons.
"If I am going to hell, Im gonna have a lot of company," McVeigh, 33, wrote to media confidants, while one of his attorneys restated his clients mantra that it was "necessary" to kill innocents at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
"Hes ready to die," lawyer Nathan Chambers said at the prison before joining his clients all-night vigil in his new cell in the death house, just 15 feet from the high-tech surgical table that will be McVeighs deathbed.
At 7 a.m., if all goes according to the 59-page execution protocol, the Oklahoma City bomber will hear Warden Harley G. Lappin reread the death sentence and then declare, "We are ready." Within five seconds, that three-word cue sets in motion the chain of events that sends megadoses of three medicines coursing one at a time through tubes placed in McVeighs veins — dropping him into deep sleep, then disabling breathing, muscles and heart.
Unless something goes awry in the first federal execution in 38 years, McVeigh will die painlessly in four minutes. McVeigh said in a letter to the Buffalo News that his body will be cremated and his ashes scattered by a lawyer, but he didnt say where. "I dont want to create a draw for people who hate me, or for people who love me," McVeigh wrote, confirming that he considered having his ashes spread at the memorial to his victims but decided that would be "too vengeful, too raw, cold."
Two city parks normally closed at night were to accommodate demonstrators. Flashing signs at the prison and at exit ramps from Interstate 70 directed death-penalty protesters to Fairbanks Park and supporters to Voorhees Park, both north of the prison near the Wabash River.
Because the agnostic McVeigh rejected having a spiritual adviser attend, no one will be present to pray with him or for him, but McVeighs final barrage of letters included word that if he finds there really is an afterlife, he expects to "improvise, adapt and overcome."
The Rev. Ron Ashmore, a priest who visited McVeigh, led parishioners at St. Margaret Mary Roman Catholic Church in praying for him and the bombing victims during a Sunday night vigil. The church is a gathering place for execution protesters. Early last night about 75 death penalty opponents with banners proclaiming "Stop the killing" joined 14-foot marching puppets of Uncle Sam and Jesus for a march to the prison before sunset, tying up sightseeing traffic for miles.
"I am sorry these people had to lose their lives, but thats the nature of the beast," McVeigh said in a heavily publicized letter to Buffalo reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, who co-wrote McVeighs biography. "Its understood going in what the human toll will be," he said, calling the truck bomb at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, "a legit tactic" to stop what he considers a government war on the American people.
Many press reports characterized those words, published yesterday in Buffalo, as an apology, perhaps forgetting that McVeigh wore earplugs to avoid hurting himself from the shock wave and that he hasnt withdrawn the regret voiced after his conviction that the death toll didnt reach 400.
"Its not much of an apology, but more of an acknowledgement really, that there was so much suffering by the people in Oklahoma, but he puts all the blame on the federal government," Mr. Herbeck said.
"Hes sorry that 168 people died. He takes no joy in that, but in his view, in his opinion, in pursuing his goal, it was necessary," said Mr. Chambers, who failed last week to delay todays execution.
At 4:10 a.m. yesterday, a contingent of guards — mostly from other prisons so those who know McVeigh would be largely uninvolved — arrived at McVeighs death row cell unannounced.
They shackled his arms and legs and secretly moved him in a white 10-passenger van to the windowless death house in a fenced enclosure, beyond prison fences and guard towers. McVeigh was described as cooperative during the 17-minute ride. He got a brief look at a pleasantly warm summer night and a sky full of stars as the van made the 500-yard journey surrounded by a squad of shotgun-toting guards on foot.
Prison spokesman Jim Cross would not specify how many guards were required but said, "There were enough to ensure it was accomplished with appropriate security."
A staff members video of the transfer was released, but it did not show McVeigh because he refused permission to photograph him.
He arrived at the fortress-like death house at 4:27 a.m. and three minutes later was securely ensconced in a holding cell.
The holding cell is 50 percent larger than the one he has occupied since July 13, 1999, when the first condemned prisoners occupied the new federal death row at the 60-year-old U.S. penitentiary here.
The first protesters began arriving at midafternoon in Fairbanks Park just across the street from the temporary state command center in the parking lot of the YWCA, which closed for the occasion.
An open jeep was filled with young men and women carrying signs blaming the FBI for McVeighs "unfair trial" and one sign saying "Dont Kill Him."
"If it was OK for the government to kill families and children in Waco, it was OK for him to do it," said one of the youths, who identified himself as James Baker, 23, of Scottsburg, Ind.
Closing state and local offices to secure them from terrorist attack — from the public library to the drivers license office — and postponing the first day of summer school perturbed some residents of a religious, working-class city whose economy is dependent on the prison. "The high level of anxiety that was felt a month ago is, in my opinion, not being felt this time around. Maybe the community is just tired and wants to get this over with," said Rod Henry, president of the Greater Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.
"Whos going to blow up the drivers license branch?" a drawling counter customer asked his waitress at Thompsons Family Restaurant.
"I dont know. Theyre going to leave us open and put the bomb underneath," the woman replied.
"Like it or not, McVeigh rang a pretty loud wake-up call about how over-the-top the feds have become," said Cameron Reilly, 20, a student at Indiana State University.
Beginning at midnight, prison buses were set to shuttle protesters from the parks to separate demonstration pens flanked on one side by the tent city accommodating some 1,700 accredited media and on the side facing the prison by tents sheltering special security forces.
The death house is on the far side of the prison, out of sight or earshot to protesters and reporters alike. A line of trailer trucks blocks the only possible camera angle, and airspace above the prison was closed for 24 hours to thwart helicopters. Twenty men other than McVeigh are on death row, including one, Juan Raul Garza, who is due to be executed June 19.
Garza, who ran a Texas marijuana-smuggling operation, was convicted of killing one man and ordering the deaths of two others but appealed to the Supreme Court as a victim of ethnic bias in dispensing capital punishment.
"I think what were hoping we can accomplish with Juan Garzas case is to just somehow be heard above all of this sound and fury and white noise thats surrounding the McVeigh case," said his attorney, Gregory Wiercioch.
McVeigh abandoned his own chance for Supreme Court intervention because he expected to lose, said lawyer Chris Tritico. "I dont view that as 'I want to die," Mr. Tritico said. "I view that as a realization that 'Im going nowhere with this process, so lets stop doing it."
In another Supreme Court action related to the execution, the justices yesterday unanimously rejected a request to videotape todays execution for possible use in a Pennsylvania federal case.
The defendant in that double-murder case, Joseph P. Minerd, contends that lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel or unusual punishment, in part because it is not "antiseptic and sanitary."
The high courts order will not affect a live closed-circuit broadcast of the execution to a closely guarded Oklahoma City prison facility, which will be seen by some 330 relatives of the dead and survivors of the bombing.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide