CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
McVeigh Calm, Ready to Die, According to Lawyers
Aired June 10, 2001 - 16:20 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: We apologize for interrupting that report, but as we though, here are the attorneys who met with Timothy McVeigh today, Nathan Chambers and Rob Nigh.
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ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: ... facility where he will be executed tomorrow. Mr. McVeigh's temperament is very even. He is calm. He is himself. He is prepared to go forward with this execution tomorrow. Quite frankly, he is ready to die. We will answer a few brief questions.
QUESTION: Some of the victims of the bombing from Oklahoma City have expressed outrage at the comments that were published today in the Buffalo paper, thinking, at least according to them, that this was one final shot from Timothy McVeigh before he dies.
NIGH: I am sorry for their feelings about that. I believe that Mr. McVeigh has tried to express as best he can that he is sorry for the deaths that occurred. That is not to say that he doesn't believe that he was right, but I believe that he has tried to express as well as he can that he sorry for that pain, and for those people. I don't think there is anything that he can say that would ever make it any better or would ever reduce the suffering.
QUESTION: Is he going to have any last statement, and you can sort of characterize his mind, what he's thinking of?
NIGH: He will have final words. His mind over the last weekend has been to prepare for his execution tomorrow. He had prepared previously. He had indicated previously and he has never changed thinking on this, that he prefers to be executed than to spend a lengthy life in prison without the possibility of release, and he still feels that way.
QUESTION: Can you describe his last statement?
NIGH: If I did that, then it wouldn't be his last statement. It would be my...
QUESTION: Can you characterize it somewhat?
QUESTION: Rob, is he going to speak it or he is going to put on the written statement after his death?
NIGH: That's up to him, how he chooses to handle that.
QUESTION: His dad talked to him May 12th, he was trying to get through to him again.
NATHAN CHAMBERS, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: He communicated with family members yesterday. The way he has asked us to describe it is he spoke to family members, and not to be more specific than that.
QUESTION: Is he aware of the fact that his message, his anti- government message got out in the letters he sent to the "Buffalo News," the articles the paper published and have now been carried on all news media? Is he away of the fact that his message has gotten out, number one and number two...
CHAMBERS: Yes, he is aware.
QUESTION: And how does he feel about that message getting out?
QUESTION: Could you say more about that, please?
CHAMBERS: He is aware that his message got out, and he believes that the published reports are an accurate reflection of his feelings.
QUESTION: Did he write letters to say good-bye? There have been reports that he has been spending the day writing letters. Can you tell us about anything? Are they letters or good-bye are they more messages to journalists? Can you tell us about these letters?
NIGH: I would say primarily they're more letters of good-bye, expression appreciation to people that have been his friends and close to him, and primarily that type of thing. Although, of course, as you know, there have been some letters to journalists as well.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, in your meeting with him now, were there any other expresses of either contrition or sorrow, any more relevant to that idea?
NIGH: We talked about his articulation of it, and he has struggled with that mightily. I think that he wished to make it known that he does feel for people, he is sorry for suffering, but again, that is not to say that he thinks that he was wrong.
QUESTION: Do you think he is striking a different tone? I mean, do you see something different about what he is saying now.
NIGH: Not necessarily. Maybe there's a more full articulation of some of the things he's tried to say in the past. He never, I think, has been the kind of guy that would tell people what he thinks that they want to hear. I think that he tries to be honest about his true feelings of sympathy and empathy without being inaccurate about them.
QUESTION: How are you dealing with your feelings about this?
NIGH: Well, I mean, my feelings are pretty irrelevant, quite frankly.
QUESTION: Are you arguing your appeal that those documents would have shown that others were involved? Did Timothy McVeigh sanction that appeal? Today, he said that it was just him. Will we ever know if others were involved? Do you believe others really were involved?
NIGH: My beliefs are really irrelevant. The documents that we isolated certainly would have been helpful to the defense, and we were quite accurate in our assessment of that. But to -- for me to tell you my beliefs, it doesn't serve any purpose.
QUESTION: He seems to be in conflict. You said he does feel for people, but he doesn't feel what he did was wrong. These two things don't seem to add up with each other. How do you explain that?
NIGH: Well, I think the way that Mr. McVeigh would explain it to be to say that in his mind, it was a military action, and I think that we ask people in military positions to inflict death and destruction, and we do that, and it's reality of life that we do that.
Now, when a pilot drops a bomb on a group of people from a foreign country and innocent women and children die, he cannot feel good about that. We wouldn't ask him to, and we know that he does not. I think that Mr. McVeigh sees a very close parallel between that situation and his own.
QUESTION: You said he is himself. Who is he? You said he's calm, he's himself. How would you characterize that?
NIGH: The same way that we always have. He is very personable. He cares deeply about people. Integrity is extremely important to him. He is open and he is not rigid in his dealings with us. He has the same kind of conversations that you and I have.
QUESTION: Is he emotional in any way?
NIGH: It's not important.
QUESTION: Has he changed any in the last couple of weeks?
NIGH: I would say no.
QUESTION: Since the last...
QUESTION: Will you see him again?
CHAMBERS: Yes, we'll see him tomorrow morning. QUESTION: When time are you going back in?
CHAMBERS: Shortly after 4:00.
CHAMBERS: That's trivial.
QUESTION: Compare it to the way...
CHAMBERS: That's a trivial question. We'd like to deal with something more substantive.
QUESTION: Has it taken place?
CHAMBERS: Do you have something that matters besides the last meal?
QUESTION: Can you guys tells us -- this being seen right now -- this is being seen right now live in Oklahoma City, they're hearing what you're saying right now. Many of those people are family members of the bombing. What would Mr. McVeigh say directly to the people whose loved ones were killed in the Murrah federal building?
CHAMBERS: I believe he said it pretty clearly, the reports earlier today expressed his feeling pretty accurately. I don't see anything served by either Mr. Nigh or I standing up here and repeating it over and over. He has made a statement. He has expressed his feelings. The sentiments that were expressed in the Buffalo publication are accurate. Neither Mr. Nigh nor I are able to expand on that or give it further interpretation.
QUESTION: He has been...
QUESTION: Why don't your feelings matter? I mean, you're the closest to him. You're like his family.
CHAMBERS: I'm sorry.
NIGH: I think that there is one thing that he would clearly say today, and that is he doesn't want anything that he would say directly or through us to cause any further pain, and if we were to do that, we would do -- certainly do them a disservice and we would do him a disservice as well, and I think that that's probably all the time that we have.
QUESTION: Is that an assurance that his closing statements, his final words tomorrow will not be something offensive to the families?
CHAMBERS: Well, they certainly won't be intended for that. The effect that they have is going to be up to the listener, but it's certainly not going to be Mr. McVeigh's intent by his final statement to cause any further pain.
QUESTION: Let's go back to his demeanor for a second. Compare it what notion you might have, abstract notion you might have of what an ordinary person, yourselves or somebody else who's gone through this process, which you may have some experience with observing, how would you compare Timothy McVeigh's demeanor, his personal courage, his bearing with what you might think the average person who's about to be executed might exhibit?
CHAMBERS: I would say that he is in amazingly good spirits. He is pleasant to talk to. He continues to be affable. He continues to be rational in his discourse. He maintains a sense of humor. He -- I know after the move in the middle of the night, he was able to sleep for a couple of hours. He intends to sleep again tonight. You know, I don't know how a normal person who is less than 24 hours from death is supposed to react, but I would say his attitude and demeanor is very good.
QUESTION: How did he handle the moving from the holding area to the death facility?
NIGH: Very well.
QUESTION: Was that a traumatic thing for him? Did he actually protest?
NIGH: I noted no trauma. In fact, one of the things he was able to do was he was able to look up in the sky for the first time in a number of years and see the moon directly, and that was valuable to him.
QUESTION: Did he comment on it?
QUESTION: You said that he is now ready to die, is that his words? Has he said that explicitly to you?
NIGH: He may have verbalized it specifically, although he never really had to. I mean, that was the essence of all of our conversations in a lot ways, and he may have expressed it that way directly as well. There's no question about it.
QUESTION: You're like family members. Why aren't your feelings important? You have been essential his family. You've had more contact with him than...
CHAMBERS: This isn't about us. It's not about Mr. Nigh, it's not about me. It's about Mr. McVeigh, it's about the people of Oklahoma City who have suffered. It's not about us. Thank you. You done, Rob.
NIGH: Yes, I think so.
QUESTION: He is prepared to die for his actions. He has said that all along. It's in the book. Does he feel that his own demise is making a statement in some respect regarding the death penalty?
NIGH: I don't think that I can answer that. I think that you'll just have to wait for his final words and evaluate it at that time. Thank you all very much.
KELLEY: From Terre Haute, a couple of Timothy McVeigh's attorneys who had a meeting with him. he was moved this morning, as you might know, and the execution is still set for tomorrow morning, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, which is 7:00 local time.
The attorneys, Nathan Chambers and Rob Nigh, both talking, saying that his temperament, McVeigh's temperament is even, he is calm, he is prepared to go forward with the execution, he is ready to die. They say that he will have final words that he is preparing. They don't know whether it will be a written statement or whether it will be spoken, but they say that he will have final words.
He talked with his family members yesterday and we will tell you a little bit more here. They struggled, they say, to make his wishes known, that he does feel for the people, he is sorry for the suffering, but he doesn't think that he was wrong. In his mind, they say it's kind of like he was thinking it was a military action.
You may have heard some of the quotes he wrote to his hometown newspaper, "The Buffalo News." In one of those, he said: "I am sorry that these people had to lose their lives, but that's nature of the beast. It's understood going in what the human toll will be."
They said that they -- the attorneys said that they will see him tomorrow morning, maybe, they thought, around 4:00 in the morning. The execution is scheduled for 7:00 in the morning local time. But they said he is in amazingly good spirits.
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