McVeigh in good spirits in final hours, convinced he is victor
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) – Timothy McVeigh counted down his final hours Sunday in a stark isolation cell, described as confronting death in good spirits and confident he is the ”victor” in his twisted one-man war against the government.
McVeigh spent the day in the 9-by-14 foot cell, a short walk from the execution chamber, writing letters of appreciation and goodbye to friends as he awaited death by chemical injection at 8 a.m. EDT Monday. He communicated with family members Saturday, his attorneys said.
McVeigh was sentenced to die for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 168 people, including 19 children – the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
”He once told me that in the crudest of terms, it’s 168 to one,” Lou Michel, co-author of ”American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & The Oklahoma City Bombing,” said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
”He feels he is the victor,” said Michel, who will be one of McVeigh’s witnesses. ”He has made his point, and he’s now going on to whatever is the next step.”
McVeigh attorneys Rob Nigh and Nathan Chambers met with their client for about two hours Sunday afternoon.
”He is calm,” Nigh said at a press briefing afterward. ”He is prepared to go forward. … Quite frankly, he is ready to die.”
Nigh also conveyed McVeigh’s regrets about the people he killed, but stopped short of offering an apology, saying his client has ”struggled with that mightily.”
He has ”tried to express as best he can that he is sorry for the deaths that occurred,” Nigh said. ”That is not to say that he doesn’t believe that he was right.”
”I don’t think there’s anything that he could say that would ever make it any better or would ever reduce the suffering,” Nigh added.
Chambers said McVeigh’s mood was upbeat.
”He continues to be affable,” the attorney said. ”He continues to be rational in his discourse. He maintains his sense of humor.”
McVeigh was transferred from his 8- by 10-foot cell at the U.S. Penitentiary to the holding cell at 5:10 a.m. EDT Sunday and secured 20 minutes later. He was cooperative and the move occurred without incident, U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials said.
”He was able to look up in the sky and see the moon for the first time in a number of years,” Nigh said. McVeigh, he added, slept a few hours Saturday night and planned to do the same before his execution.
The isolation chamber has bare tan walls, a narrow bed, a sink and toilet, a television and a window that allows a guard in an adjacent room to check on him.
”Watching the video of him being moved was surreal,” Chambers said in an interview outside the prison. ”Look around us, all those people gathered to watch someone die.”
McVeigh had been scheduled to have the last meal of his choice at 1 p.m. EDT, which could be anything from a local restaurant as long as it cost less than $20. Prison officials would not confirm if the meal had been served.
In Oklahoma City, survivors and victims’ relatives mingled with tourists Sunday in front of a memorial to those killed. Survivor Richard Williams, who volunteers at the site, said he felt a heightened sense of anticipation as he approached the area.
”I think I’m ready,” said Williams, who was an assistant manager at the building and had to be dug out of debris after the bombing. ”I’m ready for this part of the journey to be over.”
In a Sunday service at St. Margaret Mary Church in Terre Haute, the Rev. Ron Ashmore told about 80 parishioners to pray for the families who lost loved ones in the bombing. He also asked them not to condemn McVeigh.
”If we approach people with harshness, if we approach people with violence – whether it’s the violence of Oklahoma, or whether it’s the violence of what we reinstated in our country, capital punishment … we create violence in our world,” he said.
By late Sunday afternoon, only about 75 anti-death penalty activists embarked on a three-mile march to the penitentiary to protest the execution. Some carried 14-foot puppets of Uncle Sam and Jesus and banners that read ”Stop the Killing.”
In Washington, the U.S. Supreme Court on Sunday rejected without comment an attempt to videotape McVeigh’s execution, which was part of an unrelated case alleging the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.
McVeigh, 33, a decorated Gulf War veteran, will be the first federal inmate executed in 38 years.
Dan Herbeck, co-author of the McVeigh book, said Sunday that the FBI’s recent disclosure that it didn’t hand over nearly 4,500 pages of documents to the defense confirmed McVeigh’s suspicions about the government.
”If a man can smile on death row, Tim McVeigh was smiling these last few weeks,” he said in an interview outside the prison. ”He always believed they were withholding documents, and it turns out he was at least partially right.”
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.
In one excerpt from letters to The Buffalo News released Saturday, McVeigh called the bombing ”a legit tactic.”
After more than 75 hours of interviews with McVeigh, Herbeck said he remains struck by two strikingly different sides to McVeigh’s personality.
”He can be such a pleasant and nice person, and I know that’s hard to believe,” he said. ”But then when you hit one of his nerves, like when you mention the U.S. government, he becomes a completely different person.”
”His rage at the government was so strong that he would actually boast about the bombing at times,” Herbeck added.
In one of the letters to the Buffalo newspaper, McVeigh talked about his afterlife.
For McVeigh, ”death is part of his adventure,” Herbeck said on ABC. ”And he told us that when he finds out if there’s an afterlife, he will improvise, adapt, and overcome, just like they taught him in the Army.”
On the Net:
Bureau of Prisons: http://www.bop.gov
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