Eyewitness Accounts of McVeigh's Execution

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 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.

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

PITTS: "In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance, my head is bloodied but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade and yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." He signs it at the end, June 11, 2001.

Thank you.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: I'm Shepard Smith from Fox News Channel. 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 to here and folded over. His hands were down. He looked straight at the ceiling. When the curtains opened, to his left were his representatives. He sat up as much as he could in that chair and looked toward his window and nodded his head like that. Then came toward the media window where there were 10 of us, plus five people from the prison, plus two media representatives as well.

He seemed almost to be trying to take charge of the room and understand his circumstances, nodding at each one of us individually, then sort of cursory glance toward the government section. He lay there 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, his very tight lips and his very wide eyes changed considerably; his lips relaxed, his eyes relaxed, he looked toward the ceiling where there happened to be a camera staring right at Oklahoma City. And at that point his eyes seem to roll back only slightly, his body seemed to relax, his feet shifted just a bit. There was the administration of one drug and then another, and after the last drug, there was a very slight movement here.

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

SMITH: The only change between the prison jumpsuit shot that we all knew so well and today's Tim was he seems to have aged a little bit, 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 I saw Tim McVeigh was in the courtroom in Denver. He had changed markedly. He was paler, he was thinner, and he did not have the same look of arrogance that he had in the courtroom in Denver.

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

After the first drug was administered, his lips began turning a little bit paler, his skin became pale. After they administered the next drug, it appeared that he was breathing through his mouth for the first time, as though he was trying to control his breathing. He took two or three breaths like that and then from that point on for the next several minutes, when the final drug administered until he was pronounced dead, there was no additional movement from Timothy McVeigh.

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 room stood with their arms crossed in front of them, seldom looking at Timothy McVeigh. And the atmosphere in the press room was one of almost wonderment at what was transpiring in front of you: watching a man die.

The procedure began when they said, "We are ready. You may proceed." At that point, they began the execution process. It culminated 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 front of us, and he was wrapped tightly in a white sheet. And he almost looked like a mummy. And he deliberately lifted up his head and looked at one of us each by each. He took the time to make eye contact with each of us. And he was slowly nodding as he was looking at each of us across the room, the media witnesses, and the relative and the victim witnesses who were in a room adjacent to us.

After he looked at everybody, he put his head back down and he stared straight up at the ceiling. And his eyes did not move from that position for the rest of the procedure. In fact, I didn't even see him blink once after they started administering the drugs. And he died with his eyes open. As he laid back in position and they started administering all the drugs, his breathing became a little more shallow.

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

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

He didn't have anything to say, but his poem — the written statement that he handed to — that he handed out before — that he wrote before he passed on indicated that same sense of pride, that this was what had to be done, what he did and what happened to him today was all part of his plan, and he seemed very content and very resigned to the fact that he was going to die and he did not fight it and 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 and then 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 better idea of sort of the time line of how things unfolded. The first thing that we heard in the room, through the speakers, which were in the ceiling, was the warden's voice, saying "Testing one, two, three." He was 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 was speaking to McVeigh or not, but it sounded like it. The testing went on, then his voice came on again at about 7:05. Again, he said the same thing, "Testing one, two, three." And then we heard him say, at 7:06, "We're ready."

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

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

At 7:10, they announced that the first drug had been administered. At that point, he was still conscious, it seemed. His eyes were open and blinking a little bit. Very slowly, his eyes stopped moving. And his head was really perfectly lined up; he wasn't to 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 little bit.

The second drug was administered at 7:11. Then, at that point was where we saw some of the — not really spasms, exactly, but you saw 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 that the final drug had been administered — I'm sorry, at 7:13.

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

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

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

CLAY: Let me give you a few more details. The warden at one point said, "Marshal, we are ready. May we proceed?" And then the marshal picked up a red phone and said, "This is the U.S. marshal to the Department of Justice Command Center. May we proceed?" Something was 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 right about here. You could see the shoulders. The I.V. tubes looked to be yellow and gray. They came from a slot in the wall behind us. He did look to be hooked up to an EKG machine. There was a black line. And he did stare straight up, his eyes — dying with his eyes open is correct.

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 a bluish-green curtain. And a metal railing that came out from the wall kept us back from the window about 18 inches. There was a little bit of whispering among the guards right before this happened, some whispering in the room.

GRUNDEN: As the time got closer, again, we had the "testing, one, two, three" from the warden. And a correctional officer explained to us that they were checking the feed from Oklahoma City. And they also mentioned that, "We will be testing again," is what the correctional officer told us, "They're having some problems in Oklahoma 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 the sound of the curtain opening at that point. The white sheet was up to his chest and he was also laying on a white sheet. There was a white sheet 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, "Inmate McVeigh, you may make your last statement." At that point, there was silence. 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 the execution."

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

And I'll let someone else go ahead.

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

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

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

Once that happened, though, it was relatively unremarkable in the sense that he — of his expression. He moved his head back and never moved it from that position, staring straight at the ceiling. His eyes became increasingly glassy, almost watery as the process went on. However, before the first drug was administered, I think we all saw these couple of deep breaths, quick swallows, and then a fluttered breath from his lips. And then not much movement after that, perhaps a slight chest movement, as others have reported here before.

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