McVeigh Silent To The End
McVeigh, a decorated Gulf War veteran, was convicted for killing 168 people in the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. He died silently with his eyes open, according to witnesses, becoming the first federal prisoner executed in 38 years.
McVeigh made no final remarks, but gave a hand-written statement to the press, in which he quoted in full the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley, which ends, "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."
Attorney Robert Nigh told CBS News Anchor Dan Rather he believes his client chose not to speak "in part because he didn't think there was anything more he could say that might not be misinterpreted or hurtful and he didn't want to be hurtful."
Witnesses said McVeigh was tight-lipped when he entered the execution chamber at the federal prison at Terre Haute, Ind., but he appeared to relax when the drugs were administered. He wore sneakers and a white T-shirt. Media witnesses described McVeigh as having a nearly shaved head, looking older and thinner than in previous encounters with the public.
CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts was one of the media team that watched the execution.
"Timothy James McVeigh died with his eyes open," Pitts said. "When the curtains came back, he made eye contact with his people who came to support him. When the curtain passed the media center, Mr. McVeigh seemed to look up and intentionally make eye contact with each of us."
"Then when the curtain passed, the room where the victims' relatives were and survivors he turned his head to the right and made eye contact with them," Pitts said.
In Oklahoma City, Kathleen Treanor, whose 4-year-old daughter, Ashley, and her husband's parents died in the bombing, watched the execution on closed-circuit TV. Afterward, she held up a picture of her daughter and said: "I thought of her every step of the way." She said there was no display of emotion in the room as the execution took place.
Paul Howell, whose daughter, Karan, was killed, was disappointed to see no sign of remorse in McVeigh.
"What I was hoping for, and I'm sure most of us were, we could see some kind of, maybe, 'I'm sorry,'" he said after witnessing the execution in Terre Haute. "You know, something like that. We didn't get anything from his face."
Outside the prison, death penalty supporters huddled quietly on bleachers outside the federal prison, holding homemade signs in the glare from television spotlights. On the other side of orange snow fencing, death penalty opponents sat on straw bales, some holding flickering candles in milk carton holders.
In a statement at the White House, President Bush said the execution delivered "not vengeance, but justice."
Nigh has used McVeigh's execution as a platform to condemn the death penalty and criticized it as a means of making amends for a horrific crime.
"If killing Tim McVeigh does not bring peace or closure to them, I suggest to you that it is our fault," Nigh said, referring to the survivors and families who lost loved ones. "We have told them we would help heal their wounds in this way. We have taken it upon ourselves to promise to extract vengance for them. We have made killing a part of the healing process."
McVeigh has maintained he planted the 7,000-pound bomb to teach the government a lesson for its out-of control behavior, particularly the disastrous federal raids at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and near Waco, Texas.
He told a newspaper and his lawyers this weekend that he was sorry about the people who died, but viewed the attack as a military operation against an oppressive government.
He was originally set to die on May 16, but the discovery of thousands of pages of evidence that the FBI had failed to turn over to defense attorneys prompted Attorney General John Ashcroft to postpone the execution until June 11.
Last week, two federal courts turned down McVeigh's request for the additional stay, saying the new evidence did not put into question McVeigh's guilt or death sentence. McVeigh could have appealed to the Supreme Court, but decided not to.
McVeigh marked off his final hours Sunday in an isolation cell, eating his final requested meal: two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
He also met with attorneys, who said he was in good spirits prepared to meet his fate, watched television, and wrote letters of appreciation and goodbye to riends. No member of his family was present at the execution, by McVeigh's request.
McVeigh was given Last Rites by prison chaplain Frank Roof, according to the Rev. Ron Ashmore of St. Margaret Mary Church, who had met with McVeigh over the last year. The sacrament usually requires an admission of sorrow for past sins.
"Tim was raised Catholic," Ashmore said. "He knows when you ask for that, it's like saying, 'I'm sorry for everything I've done Lord. Please love me.'"
McVeigh's body was taken to a local funeral home, where he was cremated and his ashes given to one of his attorneys, Ashmore said. The cause of death was listed as lethal injection; at his request, no autopsy was performed.
Attorney Chris Tritico said the disposition of the ashes would remain a secret forever.
In the last federal execution, convicted kidnapper and murderer Victor Feguer was hanged on March 15, 1963, in Iowa. In the next scheduled federal execution, drug kingpin and murderer Juan Raul Garza is set to die June 19. He is one of 19 people who remain on federal death row.
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