- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Timothy James McVeigh will awaken today for the last time before he is executed for Americas most deadly act of domestic terrorism — 168 killings from a bomb explosion he says was motivated by patriotism.
The calamity he wrought at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, was too monstrous for most to truly comprehend. All that suffering was burned into millions of memories by one still photo of firefighter Chris Fields carrying the tiny, slack body of Baylee Almon, age 1, from Americas Kids day care center.
No comparable visual symbol is expected when "the instrument of death and destruction," as federal Judge Richard Matsch called McVeigh, is put to his death painlessly and with "respect, dignity, and compassion," far from the view of the general public at 7 a.m. today.
However, the expected crowds outside the Terre Haute, Ind., penitentiary and closed-circuit live television coverage for survivors and injured victims near ground zero in Oklahoma City promise to make McVeighs execution the closest thing to a public hanging since 1937.
The man who showed his pride at planning and executing the vicious attack lost his resolve after vowing so often to accept his fate and go coolly to his own death "bloody, but unbowed."
After months of cajoling by his ever-optimistic attorneys, McVeigh surrendered to the temptation to live and authorized a third round of appeals after the FBI turned up more than 4,000 pages of investigation documents. He lost at a district court hearing that lasted less time than it will take to kill him. After the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to intervene, he told his lawyers not to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The turnabout shattered his pose as a noble warrior avenging the excesses of an oppressive federal government at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Instead, he sat this week under 24-hour video scrutiny in a 6-foot-by-10-foot cell waiting for word from lawyers who scrambled from one courthouse to another, begging for a few more days to find the legal handle for another appeal.
McVeigh asked to be left free to contemplate his imminent death without visitors Saturday. He was to spend yesterday with attorneys Robert Nigh and Nathan Chambers, who plan to sit with him all night until they must join other witnesses at 5 a.m. today, just two hours before the execution.
"He just wants to be left alone," said another of his attorneys, Richard Burr. "He just wants time to himself. He is a thoughtful man and introspective, and he has a lot to do to be prepared for Monday."
"My gosh, the guys admitted hes a killer. So just go ahead and do it. Its time," said retired police Officer John Avera, of Edmond, Okla., who entered the smoking wreckage to help people and found only childrens bodies after the explosion.
McVeighs mood now is a far cry from his restraint a few hours after the bombing, when Oklahoma Trooper Charles J. Hanger single-handedly snared the bombing "mastermind" because there was no license tag on his junky old Mercury getaway car.
McVeigh eventually would say he had the drop on the trooper and knew he didnt wear a protective vest but couldnt shoot a state cop.

The execution process

Unlike killers executed at Depression-era public rallies, the aggressively unrepentant McVeigh is expected to die easily because after he is sedated, Pavulon injections will paralyze him for a minute or so while megadoses of potassium chloride stop his heart.
All told, the process uses about $100 worth of ordinary intravenous kits and three common medicines. The needle, tube, stopcock and plunger for one IV setup can be bought for $8.73.
The series of injections is intended to kill McVeigh in just over four minutes — so quickly he still will be in a deep sleep induced by sodium pentothal.
But the process of getting a mass murderer out of a holding cell and strapped to the execution table, as witnesses gather outside the curtained death chamber, requires over an hour from start to finish.
McVeigh was moved yesterday under heavy guard from the federal death row inside the U.S. Penitentiary Special Confinement Unit to a tiny windowless building in a field just outside the prisons ring of fences and gun-toting tower guards.
The federal Bureau of Prisons will release a video of McVeighs transfer.
However briefly, he becomes the first resident of the lone cell in the new federal death house. At that point, U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson takes over from Warden Harley G. Lappin to supervise the actual execution and file official papers documenting that the courts sentence was carried out.
The barred holding cell is a human fishbowl with a shower, bed, and toilet. One wall is all windows for guards on full-time suicide watch. Inside there is no place to hide.
McVeigh, a fan of guns and fast cars, and, for one year, a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, has told reporters he regrets only that the death toll from his bomb was less than half what he expected.
Defiant to the end, McVeigh says he is sorry 168 persons died at his hands, but insists the blame rests with the U.S. government bent on harassing its citizens.
"I am sorry these people had to lose their lives," McVeigh wrote in a series of recent letters to the Buffalo News published yesterday. "But thats the nature of the beast. Its understood going in what the human toll will be."
McVeigh has also likened his murderous assault to U.S. military operations in Iraq, Serbia and at Waco. "I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government," McVeigh said in a 400-word handwritten confession sent to Fox News, and published in full in The Washington Times.
Despite his last-ditch appeal, prison officials dont expect the stoic Desert Storm armor veteran to let any fear or remorse show through, and certainly not to apologize for what he terms a retaliatory strike.
By McVeighs reasoning, his fuel-and-fertilizer bomb fired the second "shot heard round the world" — on the 220th anniversary of the first, which began the American Revolution at Lexington, Mass., on April 19, 1775.
McVeigh said he was avenging the fiery deaths of 80 Branch Davidians at Waco two years earlier, on April 19, 1993, and the 11-day siege in 1992 at Ruby Ridge, where Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan was killed and federal officers bullets killed Randy Weavers wife, Vicki, 42, and their 14-year-old son, Sam.
Before abandoning his vow not to beg for his life, the gung-ho Army gunners resolve was known to have fallen apart only once, when he flunked 1991 Army tests to become a Special Forces Green Beret.
That changed him, and the following year, on Feb. 11, 1992 — six months before Ruby Ridge and more than a year before Waco — he sent a letter vowing to "shed blood to reform the system" to his hometown paper, the Union-Sun & Journal in Lockport, N.Y.
Randy Weaver insists now he would have advised McVeigh not to bomb the crowded building, but he seems receptive to McVeighs motives.
"Tim McVeigh was trying to make a point," Mr. Weaver told The Washington Post in April. "He was going to be judge, jury and executioner. No different from the federal government. One has a badge and one dont."
In prison interviews McVeigh told biographers Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, who wrote "American Terrorist," that he is neither psychopath nor sociopath. He says he has "great respect for human life."
He told them his "last words" will be a recitation from "Invictus," the 19th-century poem by William Ernest Henley. Its 16 lines praise an "unconquerable soul" who never admits pain and says death "shall find me unafraid."
One passage defines McVeighs mindset: "In the fell clutch of circumstance/ I have not winced nor cried aloud./ Under the bludgeonings of chance/ My head is bloody, but unbowed."
A settlement agreement that averted a lawsuit by McVeigh, 33, permits him to avoid autopsy "for religious reasons" he wont explain. To qualify he must strip naked for examination by Chief Deputy Coroner Kevin Mayes, just before he walks the 15 feet from a holding cell to be strapped down on his deathbed.
By visual inspection through the cell window the coroner will assure then, and again after McVeigh is dead, that his body bears no sign of mistreatment that partisans could blame on his guards — all volunteers under the Bureau of Prisons conscience clause.
When the death-chamber curtain is opened, at least 300 survivors from the catastrophic bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and relatives of the dead, who included 19 children up to age 5, will be watching the nations first-ever closed-circuit televised execution at Oklahoma City.

The witnesses

More than 1,000 of those over age 18 who registered with the U.S. Attorneys Office were invited to see the broadcast at the Federal Transfer Center, but most let the May 1 deadline pass without responding.
Among those planning to see the TV version are Doris Jones, whose pregnant daughter, Drug Enforcement Administration worker Carrie Ann Lenz, 26, was killed, along with her unborn child, officially identified as Michael James Lenz III.
Mrs. Jones said McVeigh should be denied time to speak before his death just as his terrorist attack — the fertilizer/fuel-oil truck bomb he detonated by a timer at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995 — denied his victims a chance to speak.
"I know hell probably say something hurtful, but hes certainly going to get due punishment in his afterlife. My daughters gone and cant smile or talk or anything, so he shouldnt be allowed to either," Mrs. Jones said.
Royia Sims, who was injured in the blast, told the Daily Oklahoman she wont waste time leaving her Tennessee home to watch her attacker "fall asleep."
Encrypted real-time images sent via secure circuits to thwart piracy will allow the families to see McVeighs death live as the federal government resumes capital punishment after 38 years.
During the execution, 20 other victims and relatives will be inside the prison, but only 10 will personally witness McVeighs final moments in the new death house. The other 10 are to be accommodated with closed-circuit TV unless there is a last-minute policy change.
"This is just icing on the cake," said one of the 10 chosen witnesses, Kay Fulton of Red Wing, Minn. She testified at the trial about her brother, Customs Agent Paul Ice, 42, one of eight on-duty federal agents whom McVeigh was specifically convicted of killing.
"Im not hard-core death penalty, but … itll be good to shut this guy up," Mrs. Fulton said.
McVeigh will not see the victims and relatives, who will be seated in a dimly-lit room behind tinted glass that works like a two-way mirror.
Should he care to look he will be able to see his own witnesses, as well as reporters, prosecutors and investigators. They will be watching through barred windows from the other three witness rooms.
Directly in front of McVeigh will be 10 reporters, chosen by press colleagues. Just to his right will be an unspecified number of government witnesses, and to his left will be five witnesses chosen by McVeigh, including two lawyers and Cate McCauley, who organized the Oklahoma City Bombing Investigation Committee to explore conspiracy theories.
Prison officials wont disclose who else McVeigh may have chosen to attend. Mr. Michel, co-author of "American Terrorist," and novelist Gore Vidal say McVeigh invited them. However, Mr. Vidal canceled Saturday.
McVeighs father, retired auto worker Bill McVeigh of Pendleton, N.Y., said that on his April 10 final visit the son he calls "Timmy" refused to apologize for his crimes. He asked both his father and mother to stay away on execution day.
"I dont think I would go anyway," Mr. McVeigh said, conceding what ex-wife Mildred Frazer still says she cannot believe — that their son is guilty.
"How can you forgive him for killing 168 people? You cant," Mr. McVeigh said in one of many interviews after his visit. "He told me he still feels he did the right thing."
Both father and mother pleaded in 1997 with jurors to spare their sons life.
"He was a child any mother could be proud of… . He is not the monster he has been portrayed as," Mrs. Frazer said from the witness stand.

A town prepares

During the death watch, thousands of protesters, reporters and curiosity seekers are expected to cluster all night outside the prison fences, able only to see each other.
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. today, official buses began hauling protesters from separate downtown parks to designated demonstration sites, with pros and cons separated from each other at both ends of the shuttle.
"These folks will never mingle, we hope," said Warden Lappin, whose deep involvement in planning extended to assuring a pizza parlor it could deliver its usual prison-staff orders.
When asked why the government would bus in protesters, one federal official said Warden Lappin was concerned about "pandemonium" and that he knows helping demonstrators "will give more of a feel of what is going to happen."
The Justice Department sent 10 authorized spokesmen to Terre Haute. Everyone else on the prison staff was ordered to stay silent.
Balancing the public effect of the news is as troubling to some reporters as it is to Attorney General John Ashcroft, who told reporters they would become co-conspirators if they gave McVeigh a platform to speak.
Gil Gross, of the ABC Radio News network, said he kept sensitivity in mind while preparing his execution-day broadcasts, avoiding calling McVeigh "Tim" or otherwise indicating support.
"One of the things we want to do is keep it on the survivors and just not make it 'The Timothy McVeigh Show. Its about the end of just one strand of this story," Mr. Gross said.
The whole question of live TV permeated the preparations. McVeigh himself suggested his execution be televised to the world. Prison officials say they never considered letting the signal go beyond survivors and relatives.
On May 1 the Florida-based Entertainment Network Inc. gave up its court fight to put the execution on pay-per-view status on the Internet, deciding not to appeal an Indiana federal court decision blocking that.
"A reasonable solution seems obvious: Hold a true public execution. Allow a public broadcast," McVeigh proposed in a letter to the Sunday Oklahoman.
On this subject, Sister Helen Prejean, the death penalty abolitionist whose book inspired the movie "Dead Man Walking," actually agrees with McVeigh.
"We need to witness it," said Sister Prejean, chairman of the board of directors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
She said public willingness to execute an occasional archvillain like McVeigh undercuts those who oppose every execution.
"Timothy McVeigh is the poster boy for the death penalty," she said. "There is no doubt about his guilt or the terrible damage he caused, and so far hes a man without remorse."
The last public hanging in this country was in an outdoor stockade at Galena, Mo., on May 21, 1937. The event drew 400 people with passes, including some who paid to get one, to watch Roscoe "Red" Jackson die for murdering salesman Pearl Bozarth, 53, and robbing him of $18. On Aug. 14, 1936, some 20,000 festive spectators swarmed into Owensboro, Ky., to see rapist-murderer Rainey Bethea executed.
Many Terre Haute residents now see their small city as a secondary victim of the bombing, its citizens captives to global attention. Schools and federal courts are to be closed today for security reasons and extra officers will flood the community seeking to prevent new sabotage. The Terre Haute business community is wary, accepting the multimillion-dollar business windfall the execution brings to town while hoping it wont damage the city's reputation.
The Terre Haute penitentiarys heavily guarded fields will be studded with three media tents that reinforce a surreal circus atmosphere. They will be replete with souvenir T-shirts offering buyers the choice of "Hoosier Hospitality/Final Justice," "Stop the Killing, Let McVeigh Live," and "Die, Die, Die."
Television satellite trucks have been staked out for weeks at the prison, and programming is expected to be all McVeigh, all the time. The Federal Aviation Administration declared a no-fly zone within one mile of prison airspace, effectively keeping helicopter cameras out of range.
The Terre Haute Tribune-Star plans to publish a 12-page "Extra" about three hours after the execution, devoted entirely to McVeigh.
"Even those who rigidly oppose capital punishment acknowledge this man evokes little sympathy," said the papers editor, Max Jones, who has tried to explain American capital punishment to his own readers and to European interviewers.
Religious groups have scheduled memorial services to pray for the city and for McVeighs victims, and other vigils to protest the death penalty.
"We will pray for McVeigh and the prison staff, but more we will pray for the people of the city to find some peace," said the Rev. Donald C. Mullen, pastor of First Congregational Church. He expects 1,000 people at Fairbanks Park beside the Wabash River for an interfaith service complete with church choirs.
As it stands, only President Bush could spare McVeighs life. That is considered unlikely.
The president was urged to grant clemency by Pope John Paul II, by anti-death penalty activists, and by a few blast survivors who would prefer that McVeigh suffer the isolation of life behind bars.
Some have suggested McVeighs execution will create a martyr to be celebrated by sympathizers who share his violent hatred of the federal government.
At the same time, McVeighs published comments feed anger against him among the majority of the nation, which empathizes with the Oklahoma City victims. He has labeled the deaths of 19 preschool children as "collateral damage" and gossiped about his favorite TV show, "Survivor," which rewards the sole member of a group not "voted off the island."
But it is McVeigh who wont survive, voted off the planet by 12 jurors for murdering the eight federal officials and under a new federal law for conspiring with Terry Nichols to kill or maim with a weapon of mass destruction. The toll was 168 dead, 700 more injured, a building leveled and confidence in federal security shaken to the core.
Another federal jury convicted Nichols, 46, of conspiracy and manslaughter, resulting in a life sentence he is still fighting. Three times the federal courts have turned down his pleas for a new trial.
Also pending is an Oklahoma indictment charging 160 murders that could place Nichols under state death sentence.

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