Eyewitness Accounts of McVeigh's Execution

ByABC News

T E R R E  H A U T E, Ind., June 11, 2001 -- The following is an uncorrected transcript of media eyewitness accounts of Timothy McVeigh's execution.

BYRON PITTS, CBS NEWS: Good morning. I'm Byron Pitts from CBS News.

Timothy James McVeigh died with his eyes open. When the curtainscame back, he made eye contact with his people who came to supporthim. When the curtain passed the media center, Mr. McVeigh seemed tolook up and intentionally make eye contact with each of us. Then whenthe curtain passed, the room where the victims' relatives were — andsurvivors — he turned his head to the right and made eye contact withthem.

He did not speak. But Mr. McVeigh did make a — write out awritten statement that the warden passed out to each of us. I'll readit to you now. It reads — and this is written by Timothy McVeigh byhand: "Final written statement of Timothy McVeigh. Out of the nightthat covers me, Black is the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatevergods may be for my unconquerable soul."

PITTS: "In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not wincednor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance, my head is bloodiedbut unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but thehorror of the shade and yet the menace of the years finds and shallfind me unafraid. It matters not how straight the gate, how chargedwith punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am thecaptain of my soul." He signs it at the end, June 11, 2001.

Thank you.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: I'm Shepard Smith from Fox NewsChannel. We were taken in as a group.

We were standing at a glass window about 18 inches from his feet.He was wearing sneakers, you could see that. There were sheets up tohere and folded over. His hands were down. He looked straight at theceiling. When the curtains opened, to his left were hisrepresentatives. He sat up as much as he could in that chair andlooked toward his window and nodded his head like that. Then cametoward the media window where there were 10 of us, plus five peoplefrom the prison, plus two media representatives as well.

He seemed almost to be trying to take charge of the room andunderstand his circumstances, nodding at each one of us individually,then sort of cursory glance toward the government section. He laythere very still. He never said a word. His lips were very tight.He nodded his head a few times. He blinked a few times.

Then when we were told that the first drug was administered, hisvery tight lips and his very wide eyes changed considerably; his lipsrelaxed, his eyes relaxed, he looked toward the ceiling where therehappened to be a camera staring right at Oklahoma City. And at thatpoint his eyes seem to roll back only slightly, his body seemed torelax, his feet shifted just a bit. There was the administration ofone drug and then another, and after the last drug, there was a veryslight movement here.

It was like standing on the other side of a glass wall andlooking directly at a hospital bed. Tim McVeigh right at us, his hairvery short, almost yellow.

SMITH: The only change between the prison jumpsuit shot that weall knew so well and today's Tim was he seems to have aged a littlebit, and he chose to say nothing.

LINDA CAVANAUGH, KFOR-TV REPORTER: My name Linda Cavanaugh. I'm with KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. The last time Isaw Tim McVeigh was in the courtroom in Denver. He had changedmarkedly. He was paler, he was thinner, and he did not have the samelook of arrogance that he had in the courtroom in Denver.

Today, when we came in, his head was almost shaven, as they havedescribed. He was laying flat, but as the windows, as though you werein a bed and you were trying to see what was over the edge of it, hestrained his neck to look at us. His lips were partly open, his eyeswere open and when they started administering the drugs, he beganstaring at the ceiling.

After the first drug was administered, his lips began turning alittle bit paler, his skin became pale. After they administered thenext drug, it appeared that he was breathing through his mouth for thefirst time, as though he was trying to control his breathing. He tooktwo or three breaths like that and then from that point on for thenext several minutes, when the final drug administered until he waspronounced dead, there was no additional movement from TimothyMcVeigh.

It was very orchestrated, clinical procedure.

CAVANAUGH: I think it went fairly much as they had planned it.The marshal who was in the room and the warden who were in the roomstood with their arms crossed in front of them, seldom looking atTimothy McVeigh. And the atmosphere in the press room was one ofalmost wonderment at what was transpiring in front of you: watching aman die.

The procedure began when they said, "We are ready. You mayproceed." At that point, they began the execution process. Itculminated when the warden pronounced him dead at 7:14.

SUSAN CARLSON, WLS RADIO, CHICAGO: My name is Susan Carlson.I'm a reporter with WLS Radio in Chicago.

When we walked in the room, we saw him just a few feet in frontof us, and he was wrapped tightly in a white sheet. And he almostlooked like a mummy. And he deliberately lifted up his head andlooked at one of us each by each. He took the time to make eyecontact with each of us. And he was slowly nodding as he was lookingat each of us across the room, the media witnesses, and the relativeand the victim witnesses who were in a room adjacent to us.

After he looked at everybody, he put his head back down and hestared straight up at the ceiling. And his eyes did not move fromthat position for the rest of the procedure. In fact, I didn't evensee him blink once after they started administering the drugs. And hedied with his eyes open. As he laid back in position and they startedadministering all the drugs, his breathing became a little moreshallow.

At one point, he filled up his cheeks with air and then just kindof let it go. But I don't believe that was his last breath. Therewas still some shallow breathing that followed. His skin began toturn a very strange shade of yellow towards the end. And he remainedextremely rigid.

CARLSON: I think as a reporter, you cover a lot of things andwe've seen dead bodies, but the most chilling part of this was thefact — for me at least — that he took the time to look up and lookat each of us in the eye and there was almost a sense of pride as henodded his head, laid back down, and seemed very resigned to his fate.

He didn't have anything to say, but his poem — the writtenstatement that he handed to — that he handed out before — that hewrote before he passed on indicated that same sense of pride, thatthis was what had to be done, what he did and what happened to himtoday was all part of his plan, and he seemed very content and veryresigned to the fact that he was going to die and he did not fight itand he almost looked proud of what had happened.

At this point, we're going to open it up for questions.

QUESTION: Did the execution start at exactly 7:00?

QUESTION: Aren't we going to do the rest of the people?

CARLSON: Originally, it said we were going to do four people andthen questions.

QUESTION: Well, I think we should do everybody.

CARLSON: Absolutely.

REX HUPPKE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: My name is Rex Huppke. I'm with the Associated Press. Let me give you a betteridea of sort of the time line of how things unfolded. The first thingthat we heard in the room, through the speakers, which were in theceiling, was the warden's voice, saying "Testing one, two, three." Hewas checking the feed to Oklahoma City. That happened at about 7:02.

We heard his voice come back on about a minute later, saying,"Having little trouble with the video, just like I said, OK?" Now,the curtains were still drawn, so I can't say for sure if he wasspeaking to McVeigh or not, but it sounded like it. The testing wenton, then his voice came on again at about 7:05. Again, he said thesame thing, "Testing one, two, three." And then we heard him say, at7:06, "We're ready."

Then the curtains were pulled. As they've described, McVeighlooked — he looked first towards his lawyers — or towards hiswitnesses which included his lawyers, and he kind of shook his headtowards them.

HUPPKE: Then, he looked at the media and kind of bounced hishead towards each one of us. And then he looked over to his righttowards the victim witness room, which was a tinted glass pane so hecouldn't see into it, but he looked over and he sort of — not realdramatic, but he sort of squinted a little bit, like he was trying tosee through the tinted glass to see if he could see anything.

At 7:10, they announced that the first drug had beenadministered. At that point, he was still conscious, it seemed. Hiseyes were open and blinking a little bit. Very slowly, his eyesstopped moving. And his head was really perfectly lined up; he wasn'tto one side or the other, he was very rigid and straight up and down;and the eyes just sort of started to slowly move back just a littlebit.

The second drug was administered at 7:11. Then, at that pointwas where we saw some of the — not really spasms, exactly, but yousaw a couple of heavy breaths and then that was, by and large, it.There was a little stomach movement. And at 7:15 they announced thatthe final drug had been administered — I'm sorry, at 7:13.

Then at 7:14, the warden came on through the speaker again andannounced that he had died.

NOLAN CLAY, "THE DAILY OKLAHOMAN": I'm Nolan Clay. I'm with The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City. Ijust have a few more details. The poem was the "Invictus" poem, thatBritish poem that was written in the 1800s. We all had a copy of itoff the Internet. I compared it to the written statement that wasgiven to us. I'll see if we can get copies to the people. Can youmake copies of this (inaudible)

OK. At the top, it says final written statement of TimothyMcVeigh. His signature is this scribbled thing that sometimes Mr.McVeigh would write, and it has June 11, 2001. We compared it to thepoem. It seems to be word-for-word, punctuation and all that.

CLAY: Let me give you a few more details. The warden at onepoint said, "Marshal, we are ready. May we proceed?" And then themarshal picked up a red phone and said, "This is the U.S. marshal tothe Department of Justice Command Center. May we proceed?" Somethingwas said back to him. And then the marshal, who was Frank Anderson,said, "We may proceed with the execution."

McVeigh was wearing a white T-shirt. The sheet came up to rightabout here. You could see the shoulders. The I.V. tubes looked to beyellow and gray. They came from a slot in the wall behind us. He didlook to be hooked up to an EKG machine. There was a black line. Andhe did stare straight up, his eyes — dying with his eyes open iscorrect.

His eyes did roll back slightly. I also saw the gulping breath,where his cheeks bubbled up. And I saw that twice.

And I'll be glad to answer any questions after everybody is done.And anybody who wants to see me, I'll go through more detail.

KARIN GRUNDEN, TERRE HAUTE TRIBUNE-STAR: I'm Karin Grunden from the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. And I'll provide you a few additional details as well.

When we walked into the room, the curtain was closed. It was abluish-green curtain. And a metal railing that came out from the wallkept us back from the window about 18 inches. There was a little bitof whispering among the guards right before this happened, somewhispering in the room.

GRUNDEN: As the time got closer, again, we had the "testing,one, two, three" from the warden. And a correctional officerexplained to us that they were checking the feed from Oklahoma City.And they also mentioned that, "We will be testing again," is what thecorrectional officer told us, "They're having some problems inOklahoma City with the video feed."

When they got that straightened out, the warden again said,"Testing, one, two, three. We're ready." And you could hear thesound of the curtain opening at that point. The white sheet was up tohis chest and he was also laying on a white sheet. There was a whitesheet draped on the gurney.

The warden and U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson both had earpieces in.They were standing next to each other. The warden did say, "InmateMcVeigh, you may make your last statement." At that point, there wassilence. At that point, the warden read the sentencing information.And then the red phone was picked up after the warden said, "Marshal,we are ready. May we proceed?"

The marshal responded, "Warden, you may proceed with theexecution."

And, as others described, he looked around. He did swallow andpuff some air and you could see his chest moving up and down. Thewarden did look at Timothy McVeigh. His eyes blinked a few times, andthen they remained open.

And I'll let someone else go ahead.

KEVIN JOHNSON, USA TODAY: My name is Kevin Johnson with USAToday, I'll take you outside the execution chamber alittle bit. We were dropped off on, I guess, the main entrance. Wewalked up a path to a 13-foot-high chainlink fence topped by razorwire with a couple of heavily-armed guards out front. And then wewere ushered in.

I thought perhaps the most remarkable part of it was, as otherpeople have suggested here or have said here, reported here, that hiseyes, his line of sight followed the roll of the curtain from right toleft, passing first the attorney's window — or his witnesses' window,then ours, past the government witnesses, and then past the victimwitnesses from Oklahoma City.

JOHNSON: As others have stated, he did strain himself from thegurney to look at each window. And as others have reported here, hedid make eye contact with each of us, or at least tried to do that.

Once that happened, though, it was relatively unremarkable in thesense that he — of his expression. He moved his head back and nevermoved it from that position, staring straight at the ceiling. Hiseyes became increasingly glassy, almost watery as the process went on.However, before the first drug was administered, I think we all sawthese couple of deep breaths, quick swallows, and then a flutteredbreath from his lips. And then not much movement after that, perhapsa slight chest movement, as others have reported here before.

Toward the end of the process, sometime before the wardenpronounced time of death, it wasn't clear — or at least any signs ofbreathing were not visible to us. And he appeared, again, as othershave reported, to — his eyes were completely glassy at that point.And his skin color turned from almost a very, very pale when we firstsaw him to a light, light yellow. His lips also turned that color aswell.