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CNN Special Report: McVeigh Execution

Aired June 10, 2001 - 20:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We are 12 hours from the execution of Timothy McVeigh. I'm Bill Hemmer, live from Terre Haute, our special report tonight begins now.


ROB NIGH, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: 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.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: The Oklahoma City bomber spends his last day of life preparing for death. Three drugs will be used to kill McVeigh.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The third drug is a potassium chloride and that effectively stops the heart from beating.


SAVIDGE: We'll look at the planned order of events as the clock tics toward the execution.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Edie and I never got to see the boys again after the bombing, because of the condition their bodies were in. It haunts me to this day. I'm sorry I didn't see them. Even if they would have been in bad condition, I never got a chance to tell them goodbye.


SAVIDGE: Kathy Wilburn lost her two grandsons to the Oklahoma City bombing. But she feels the full story has yet to be told, and for that reason she's in no rush to see Timothy McVeigh die.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not in favor of killing him, because with him dies the truth. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: This is a CNN SPECIAL REPORT: "The McVeigh Execution" with Bill Hemmer in Terre Haute, Indiana.

HEMMER: Good evening.

As the sun sets in this western Indiana town, the final hours for Timothy McVeigh continue to wind down. At 8:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow morning, another sad and tragic chapter will come to an end inthe Oklahoma city bombing story. 168 people lost their lives that day back in April of 1995. The ultimate legal punishment will come on Monday morning.


HEMMER (voice-over): This nine by 14-foot room, a holding cell just a few short steps from the execution table, is where Timothy McVeigh is spending his final night. In the predawn hours Sunday, videotape shows the van which transferred the convicted bomber to his final cell, but McVeigh is never seen. Prison guards described him as cooperative for the 20-minute transfer.

In a late change of procedure, McVeigh was given a small television to watch in his final hours. Sunday afternoon, two attorney's spent time with the condemned bomber.

NIGH: Mr. McVeigh's temperment is very even. He is calm. He is himself. He is prepared to go forward with this execution tomorrow.

NATHAN CHAMBERS, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: You know, I don't know how a normal person who is less than 24 hours away from death is supposed to react, but I would say his attitude and demeanor is very good.

HEMMER: The green-tiled execution room, with its T-shaped gurney in the middle, is equipped with a telephone line in the event last minute appeals, or a reprieve, may force a change in the schedule. The White House says that's not likely.

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We don't expect any appeals; we think that Timothy McVeigh will have the sentence carried out. And this is a terrible tragedy, and he is a pathetic character and it's unfortunate this is the result of just a horrible, horrible crime that he committed.

HEMMER: Meanwhile from Oklahoma City, 10 people chosen by lottery were flown to Indiana to witness Monday's execution. Some are survivors of the bombing, some are families of the victims. Four others, invited by McVeigh, will attend, including Cate McCauley, a researcher from Rhode Island.

CATE MCCAULEY, RESEARCHER: I made two promises in the course of this investigation. The first one was to the victims and to the rescue workers, to tell the truth. And the second one was to Timothy McVeigh, to say that I would see it through to the end. And tomorrow will be the end. HEMMER: Outside the prison, protestors, both for and against the execution, are directed to separate areas. With the change in the execution date, large numbers are not expected. But curious sightseers, eager for a look, have backed up roads outside the prison. For months, McVeigh has had letter correspondence with numerous people including "The Buffalo News," his hometown newspaper.

In an article printed sunday, McVeigh writes:

"I am sorry these people had to lose their lives. But that's the nature of the beast. It's understood going in what the human toll will be."


HEMMER: Late tonight, more legal news. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that there will be no videotape of the execution tomorrow. An attorney in a separate case had appealed to the highest court trying to get that down. But indeed that will not happen -- again, no videotaping of the execution to take place tomorrow.

However, there will be protestors tomorrow. CNN's Jeff Flock with one group tonight to bring us the very latest on that angle of the story.

Jeff, good evening to you.


This hour, giving you the other side of the story. Earlier, we were talking to folks opposed to capital punishment. And at this hour, we are here at Voorees Park; this is the staging area for those who are for capital punishment. And we will be back to talk with the people carrying these signs in just a moment.

First, I want to give you a look at the march that stepped off an hours time ago. It went from St. Margaret Mary Church on to the prison itself. About 50 or 60 people, I would estimate, carrying one caricature of Uncle Sam, saying "Stop Me Before I Kill Again."

They will go to the prison, but they will be bussed back to their staging areas. Places like this. And I'm joined by Peggy Harris, who is a young lady that lives in Terre Haute. Tell me what sparks you to come out here and carry this sign.

PEGGY HARRIS, DEATH PENALTY SUPPORTER: The 168 people that died and the hundreds more that were injured, because of one man. Too many people are putting too much emphasis on Timothy McVeigh. We need to stop him for the reason we are here. We are here for the 168 victims that died and the families and friends; we want them to know, there is people all around that are on their side and not on McVeigh's side.

FLOCK: Do you feel as though capital punishment is the proper punishment that fits the crime in this case. Some feel that perhaps life in prison would be even worse. HARRIS: No, no. I think he's getting off too light by just getting a needle in his arm. I think he should die. But I think it should be a lot harsher than just a needle in his arm. He gets a valium first. 168 people didn't get that, so he shouldn't either. The death penalty -- he should die, but it should be a lot harsher than just a needle in the arm.

FLOCK: Thank you, Ms. Harris. Appreciate your comments tonight.

HARRIS: Thank you.

FLOCK: Thanks, we'll let you get back to it. Several people carrying signs out here tonight, Bill. Both sides of the death penalty issue represent in Terre Haute, Indiana -- Bill.

HEMMER: And Jeff, quickly, give us a bit more information for how these protestors will be bussed to the prison. What is the protocol in the schedule for that?

FLOCK: They're taking great pains to keep these two sides apart; two different city parks. This is Voorees Park, where the folks who are for the death penalty are here. And then in Fairbanks Park not far from here, a separate group.

At about midnight, local time, they will begin business of being bussed to those holding areas that are not far from where you sit, and again, those holding areas literally, hundreds of yards apart as well, there's virtually no opportunity for these two sides to come together -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jeff Flock, watching the protest angle of this story for tomorrow.

Tomorrow's execution will be the first federal execution in 38 years; and it's clear throughout the week here that prison officials want to ensure that this execution comes off without a hitch.

Tonight, CNN's Susan Candiotti and the meticulous planning that is involved.


GREG HERSHBERGER, BUREAU OF PRISONS: Within an hour of the execution, Mr. McVeigh will be given a khaki shirt, a pair of khaki pants, slip on type shoes.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Next, McVeigh will be escorted a few feet to the room where he'll be put to death. Prison officials refused a request from his lawyers to be allowed to watch while he's strapped to this table and IVs inserted. Drapes will open to four rooms of witnesses overlooking McVeigh, including his lawyers, victims, reporters, and government officials.

He will be asked whether he wants to make a final statement. Then the ward debt will read the execution order and the marshal will use the red phone in the corner to check for any legal reasons to stop.

If there is no reprieve, the IV lines will open and three drugs will be used.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They included sodium pentothal which causes to fall asleep or lapse into unconsciousness. The second drug is called pavulon. That is a muscle relaxer which causes resparation to cease. The third drug is potassium chloride, and that stops the heart from beating.

CANDIOTTI: Witnesses here and via closed-circuit TV from Oklahoma City, will watch McVeigh die. Death is expected from eight to 15 minutes. The warden will announce death. The curtains will close. A coroner will confirm the execution is complete.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Terre Haute, Indiana.


HEMMER: By the way, the cost of this three-drug combination less than $100. And ironically, it was first developed in 1977 in Oklahoma University by the medical school at Oklahoma University.

Speaking of Oklahoma, tonight in Oklahoma City at the national memorial is where we find CNN's Mike Boettcher this eveing.

Mike, good evening to you.


The only overt sign that the execution is forthcoming very soon is the heavy turnout at the Oklahoma City Memorial. In the 14 months it's been open, over 800,000 people have come here, and a lot of Oklahomans -- several thousand -- came today.

For example, I ran into my cousin Jimmy and his family came out here and for Jimmy, who's one of the most solid people I know to come out, to be drawn back out here, says a lot about how Oklahomans are feeling right now. Their focus, it's refocused them back on this whole issue of the bombing and that's a very painful experience.

Now, tomorrow morning, things begin with a silent vigil of those opposed to the death penalty. For 168 minutes, they will have a silent vigil at a statue of the weeping Virgin Mary a short distance from the bomb site. Then, about an hour before the execution, 330 survivors and family members, other victims, will go to the airport at Oklahoma City to a facility there where they will view a closed- circuit version of the execution.

Now today, about 10 family members and survivors left Oklahoma City, exactly 10, rather. They left here to go to Terre Haute, Indiana. They has won a lottery to attend the execution in person. Now, one of those was Paul Howell. Paul Howell lost his 27-year-old daughter, and he packed today. He brought with him three very important things. He brought a picture of his daughter and his two granddaughters. It is something he feels he has to do. It's very important, he says, for him to be there.


PAUL HOWELL, FATHER OF BOMBING VICTIM: I want to see him eye-to- eye, whether can he see me or not. From what I understand, he can't right now. But my comment is is I want on to see him because a lot of times, the wording that he says doesn't really mean anything, but if you can read a face, then you can pretty well determine whether or not he is serious about what he is saying, and that's what I'm looking for.


BOETTCHER: There's been a lot of talk about closure, and in speaking to a lot of Oklahomans and I grew up in this state and worked here for many years in Oklahoma City, I haven't talked to anybody who believes this brings closure. It's perhaps the end of a chapter, but not the end of a book. according to the people that I've talked to, Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Mike. Mike Boettcher, live in Oklahoma City tonight. Mike, thanks to you.

After our special report tonight, coming up at the bottom of the hour, I want to remind you a program, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" will come your way, and as to be expected, this week the profile is on Timothy McVeigh.

For a quick preview of that program, here is CNN's Daryn Kagan.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just ahead on "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS," neighbors remember him as the nice boy next door, soldiers remember him as a decorated war veteran, so what went wrong with Timothy McVeigh? What moved him to commit the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history?

On the weekend before his execution, we look for those answers on "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS," coming up at the bottom of the hour.


HEMMER: Daryn, thank you. A reminder, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" will follow our program tonight. In the meantime, though, our special report will continue right after this.


KATHY WILBURN, GRANDMOTHER OF BOMBING VICTIMS: The coroner's report said that when Chase was brought in that he had on little chipmunk underwear. So I keep these as little reminders. Some people, I think, believe it's odd that I've kept everything and all the toys, but this is all I have left of Chase and Colton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE: She lost two grandchildren in the Oklahoma City bombing.


WILBURN: I'm a person that's interested in the truth, and I don't feel the truth has been forthcoming.


SAVIDGE: When this "CNN SPECIAL REPORT" returns, a victim who feels Timothy McVeigh's death will kill any chance to learn to what really happened.


SAVIDGE: Head to our Web site for full online coverage of the McVeigh execution, and while there, leave your comments on our message board or take part in an interactive chat. It's all at; AOL keyword, CNN.

HEMMER: And there are hundreds if not thousands of lives that have been changed forever as a result of the bombing from April of 1995, and so many are approaching this execution tomorrow morning in many different ways.

Tonight, the story of one woman who lost two of her grandchildren in the bombing that day. She says McVeigh should not die because she believes truth is not known just yet.

With her story tonight, here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


KATHY WILBURN, GRANDMOTHER OF BOMBING VICTIMS: This is Chase on the beach in March. And this is when we took him to Disneyland.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kathy Wilburn lost her two grandsons on April 19, 1995. Chase Smith and his little brother, Colton, were in the Murrah Federal Building day care center when the bomb exploded. They lived with their mother and grandmother.

WILBURN: The coroner's report said that when Chase was brought in that he had on little chipmunk underwear so I keep these as little reminders. Some people I think believe it's odd that I've kept everything and all of the toys but this is all I have left of Chase an Colton.

TUCHMAN: The boys' mother, Edie, and their grandmother were initially told the children were missing. Hours later they got the horrifying news.

WILBURN: Edie or I -- neither one ever got to see the boys again after the bombing because of the condition their bodies were in. It haunts we to this day. I'm sorry I didn't see them even if they would have been in bad condition. I never got a chance to tell them good bye.

TUCHMAN: From nearly the beginning Kathy Wilburn has believed there is more to the bombing story than has been told. She thinks more people were involved in the crime and says that's why she would prefer timothy McVeigh not be executed.

WILBURN: I think for what he did he certainly deserves to die but I'm not in favor of killing him because I believe with McVeigh dies the truth.

TUCHMAN: The grandmother's taken the unusual step of investigating the bombing on her own. A production team is shooting a documentary about her and her investigative travels. She has met with Timothy McVeigh's father and sister and established a writing relationship with Terry Nichols, now serving a life sentence in prison for his role in the bombing.

WILBURN: Well, I'm a person that's interested in the truth and I don't believe the truth has been forthcoming and who would know more about the bombing than -- the Oklahoma City bombing -- than Terry Nichols?

TUCHMAN: Kathy Wilburn has a collection of letters from Terry Nichols. In this one he says, "Dear Kathy, I bet you're surprised I'm writing to you." And later on says if he knew God like he does now, "it would have prevented me from making numerous mistakes over the years, but that's the past and no one can change it." No one's more of that than Kathy Wilburn.

WILBURN: And always in Edie's life if she ever had a problem she came to her mother and her mother fixed it. And this was one I couldn't fix. And I had found myself lying to Edie. I said, "Edie, I will be all right, it will be all right." But I knew in my heart it was never going to be all right.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Oklahoma City.


HEMMER: And again, there are countless stories as a result of this bombing. Coming up here, we'll talk with two men with two completely different viewpoints: One man in Oklahoma who believes McVeigh should die and it should happen tomorrow morning; another man who has traveled the world fighting against the death penalty. Those interviews straight ahead when our special report continues from Terre Haute, Indiana.


HEMMER: Once again, welcome back. We are live in Terre Haute tonight as our special report continues tonight on the execution of Timothy McVeigh. At this time, we want to talk to two men with two very different viewpoints on tomorrow morning's execution. First, from Oklahoma City, live with us is Richard Williams. Richard Williams was a survivor of the bombing, also an assistant building supervisor inside the Murrah building the day it went down in April 1995.

Also, live here in Terre Haute, Bud Welch. You may recognize his name and his face. He has traveled the world trying to work against capital punishment, not only in this country, but worldwide. His daughter Julie was killed in the bombing that day.

Good evening to you, sir.


HEMMER: What's running through your mind right now?

WELCH: Well, I think probably what's really running through my mind is the fact that when I met Jennifer and Bill, Jennifer's Tim's youngest sister, I promised her that I would do everything that I could to prevent the execution of her son -- I mean, of her brother. And I failed and for that, I don't have any really any excuses, I don't have any regrets. There wasn't anything else that I could do, but I still not able to accomplish that.

HEMMER: To Richard Williams in Oklahoma City. Sir, how will you be spending the day tomorrow?

RICHARD WILLIAMS, BOMBING SURVIVOR: I had originally planned to go to work just like I have done every other day of the last six years, even at the point of these significant events. I will now be doing some interviews here in Oklahoma City. But were it not for that, I would probably just be going to work. I would still pay attention, I'll still watch and keep up with the events, but it certainly won't change my day otherwise.

HEMMER: You will not go and view the closed feed there outside of town. Why not?

WILLIAMS: I chose months ago, when I realized that that might be an option that that was not something that was necessary for me. I don't know that I can explain it, it's just not something that I need to do. I testified at both trials. I saw McVeigh and Nichols both. I saw no remorse from either one of them. I didn't attend any other functions of the trial beyond that other than when I testified, and I just didn't feel like at this point that it was something that I needed to do.

HEMMER: Richard, I'm curious as I sit here with Bud Welch next to me and you men know each other quite well, how do you feel knowing that he has circled the globe, virtually, fighting against the death penalty, something that you support in terms of closure and the next step in the process for yourself for Timothy McVeigh?

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, let me say that I deeply respect not only Bud Welch as a person and a friend, but also his opinions and the fact that he has right to that opinion in our country, I think, only speaks to how we feel about things.

My opinion is that the punishment fits the crime. The law says that he would pay for his crime, and I support that for that reason, but I certainly respect what Bud feels, and don't want to -- I would never say that he's wrong.

HEMMER: It has been my observation that there has been amazing dichotomy in Oklahoma City, your perspective and the perspective of Richard Williams. How has that been able to parallel itself throughout this past six years and what have you have talked about with other people who frankly disagree with your opinion?

WELCH: Well, I have talked about it, of course, with basically all these people I have met, Richard including. I have come to know them very well. I have a very deep respect for them, and I do have respect for their belief that what we're embarking on tomorrow morning is the right thing to do.

I just strongly disagree with them and I simply think that tomorrow morning, when we take Tim out of his cage to kill him, that when the sun sets tomorrow night that we will not have accomplished anything. We will end up, in my view, with a staged political event. It does nothing more or less for our society than that. We have to remember those charged with capital murder in the United States, only a little over 1 percent even end up on death row.

HEMMER: What would your daughter Julie, who is not with us today, what would she want in this matter?

WELCH: Julie would be strongly opposed to the death penalty. I know she was strongly opposed to it. She was involved heavily in Amnesty International at the age of 16, and she was an activist. She would speak out.

I never was an activist until her death, and Julie, if she had that little white flag, you might say, and she was carrying that and she no longer can carry that, and I'm going to carry that flag for her until the day I die and I'm strongly committed to doing this.

HEMMER: In the short time that we have left, Richard Williams, what is the feeling there in Oklahoma City where you are at the memorial?

WILLIAMS: I think it's one of anticipation, probably much different than it was on May 16th. Bud can probably confirm that. I think at this point, because of the finalization of it, there's a very somber feeling. It's not a good feeling at all. That's not the intent of this.

But I think most people are ready for this part in our lives and this chapter to be over. It's not closure. There is no such thing, in my opinion, because this only ends another chapter.

HEMMER: Richard Williams, we thank you for you thoughts, your time and your feeling tonight, and Bud Welch, you're live in Terre Haute, thanks to you well, gentlemen.

WELCH: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. HEMMER: A reminder to our viewers again, coming up after our broadcast -- thank you again. After our broadcast shortly here, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" will come your way at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time and later tonight, around midnight Eastern time, we do expect prison officials to brief reporters here on the prison grounds and then tomorrow morning, starting early, complete coverage throughout the day of the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

I'm Bill Hemmer, live in Terre Haute, Indiana, from Western Indiana tonight. We say tonight. We will see you tomorrow morning, early here, in Terre Haute. Good-bye, now.



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