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McVeigh's Execution Brings Closure

Aired June 11, 2001 - 22:00   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The body of Timothy McVeigh has been cremated. I'm Bill Hemmer again live in Terre Haute, Indiana tonight. Up next: the execution as seen by the witnesses, the world, and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

ANNOUNCER: This is a "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: The McVeigh Execution."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLEY LAPPIN, WARDEN, U.S. PENITENTIARY: Timothy James McVeigh has been executed by lethal injection. He was pronounced dead at 7:14 a.m. Central daylight time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The Oklahoma City bomber is put to death, a little more than six years after the worst act of terrorism in the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked toward the ceiling, where there happened to be a camera staring right at Oklahoma City, and at that point, his eyes seemed to roll black only slightly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A lethal mix of drugs ended McVeigh's life in a matter of minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He died with his eyes open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a demarcation point. It's a period at the end of a sentence. This is the completion of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: For those who survived the bombing, and for those who lost loved ones, closure, for some.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My closure will come the day I die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is a "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: The McVeigh Execution," with Bill Hemmer reporting from the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

HEMMER: And good evening. Timothy McVeigh is dead, and with his execution, a long and tragic story comes to a close in the Oklahoma City bombing case. We will go live to Oklahoma City momentarily to see what's happening there tonight, at the national memorial.

But in the meantime, here in Terre Haute, Indiana, CNN's Susan Candiotti and the execution as described by those who watched it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The victims' relatives and survivors who watched Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh die on this gurney did not get the second thing they wanted most.

PAUL HOWELL, EXECUTION WITNESS: What I was hoping for, and I'm sure most of us was, is that we could see some kind of maybe "I'm sorry," you know, something like that, but you know, we didn't get anything from his face. His facial expressions were just about as calm as they could be. The only thing I noticed is that he clinched his mouth one time, like he was trying to fight the sleep.

CANDIOTTI: Ten reporters watched as a lethal mix of drugs ended McVeigh's life in only four minutes.

SUSAN CARLSON, WLS RADIO, CHICAGO: He was wrapped tightly in a white sheet, he almost looked like a mummy.

KARIN GRUNDEN, "TERRE HAUTE TRIBUNE-STAR": The warden did say: "Inmate McVeigh, you may make your last statement." At that point, there was silence.

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX TV: He lay there very still. He never said a word. His lips were very tight.

CARLSON: In fact, I didn't even see him blink once after they started administering the drugs, and he died with his eyes open.

SMITH: He looked toward the ceiling, where there happened to be a camera staring right at Oklahoma City, and at that point, his eyes seemed to roll back only slightly.

CANDIOTTI: For his final statement, McVeigh wrote out by hand the words of "Invictus," an 1875 poem by a crippled writer, which includes this line, "My head is bloody, but unbowed." UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instead of saying anything, which he did not, that that was his last stand, so to speak, before he left this world.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Indeed, because he decided not to make a final statement, as you might recall, over the weekend, he spoke to his attorneys, he did not want to inflict further pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which is a crock. If he felt that way, he could not have killed 168 people to begin with, and 19 of them children, and three unborn children, and all the families that were ruined forever.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): About 100 people showed up to protest the first federal execution in the U.S. in 38 years. McVeigh's lawyer voiced his own protest.

ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH'S LAWYER: We have made killing a part of the healing process.

RICHARD BURR, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: From his perspective, it was honorable. He had no sense of how terribly misguided it was, from everybody else's perspective, and that's how he maintained. He knew of the criticisms of him, he knew what people thought of him, but he always felt like he had done what he set out to do, and had no regrets about that.

CANDIOTTI: A survivor and witness to the execution had this answer to a question from international press.

QUESTION: But do you feel better today?

ANTHONY SCOTT, EXECUTION WITNESS: About that much, because we can't bring back the lives that were lost.

CANDIOTTI: McVeigh's body was taken away to be cremated, his ashes to be scattered somewhere unknown.

(on camera): An acknowledgement at the end from McVeigh himself of what a hated place he faces in history.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Terre Haute, Indiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Also late today we have been informed by a local Roman Catholic priest that the body of Timothy McVeigh was cremated earlier today, and also he was given last rites on the execution table, just a few moments before the curtains opened and the execution began early this morning.

The other critical aspect of this story certainly lies back in Oklahoma City. Hundreds came out today to watch a closed-circuit feed at a local airport there, and many more came to pay their respects at the national memorial.

CNN's Mike Boettcher was there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, a quiet remembrance of the victims during a day focused on their killer. Some bombing survivors and victims' families decided this solemn monument was the appropriate place to mark Timothy McVeigh's execution.

Gabriella Aleman, whose husband died in the blast, believed witnessing the execution would not improve her life.

GABRIELLA ALEMAN, WIFE OF VICTIM: Our life is going to remain as it is. My children are still not going to have their father. I'm still not going to have my husband. His mom will not have her son back.

BOETTCHER: But 232 others, in a closed-circuit broadcast transmitted to Oklahoma City, decided to look Timothy McVeigh in the eyes as he died. Each saw something different.

DAN MCKINNEY, HUSBAND OF VICTIM: I feel like the man felt fear, and I think he was looking for somebody. I think he wanted something or somebody for some support.

CATHRYN ALANIZ-SIMONES, DAUGHTER OF VICTIM: He just stared at us, and then he looked up at the ceiling, and really no emotions as far as any smiles or smirks, or anything. He was just pretty steadfast, stone cold.

ANY STIERS, DAUGHTER OF VICTIM: To me, it seemed like he thought about saying something, and then just glared at the camera.

BOETTCHER: In the museum dedicated to the bombing, one more date added to a tragic timeline. Uniformly, there was relief that it had come and gone.

KATHLEEN TREANOR, LOST DAUGHTER AND IN-LAWS: I'm done. He's done. He's no longer going to have any influence over my life. He will no longer steal anymore of my joy.

JIM DENNY, CHILDREN SURVIVED BOMBING: Today was a good day, because our justice system worked, from when Tim McVeigh started this process until today. But it's not a happy day, because a human life was taken. And in the class of Oklahomans and the class of people down here, no cheering, kind of a solemn moment, knowing things maybe are almost over and people can get on with their lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOETTCHER: On April 19, 1995, I was standing here. I grew up around here, and the bombing had a dramatic impact on me and all Oklahomans. And today, I must say, this is one of the most strangely quiet, solemn days I remember in this state -- Bill.

HEMMER: Mike, so many people talked about today, but not many talked about tomorrow and going forward. Was do people say about their feelings when they wake up tomorrow morning, knowing that it's Tuesday, June 12, and no longer June 11, the day that they looked forward to for so long?

BOETTCHER: Well, Bill, I will say this: being an Okie is being a nationality. It's not so much being a citizen of a state, it feels like a nationality. And people stick together here. And they will pull out of this.

One of the things that will help in this state is a good economy. Oil prices will help out, and that will help a lot in this state to get past this bad era. But I will say that Oklahomans pulled themselves out of the Dust Bowl and the depression, and they are determined to pull themselves out of this now -- Bill.

HEMMER: Mike, you met Timothy McVeigh in person a few years back. What do you remember from your meeting and the conversation you had with him?

BOETTCHER: Well, I remember -- immediately, I had wanted to see this person I felt that had horns on, that was the devil incarnate, and he was a very polite young man, and spoke in a very polite, military kind of language. He was centered on the Gulf War, he wanted to talk about something that we had in common to talk about, because I covered the Gulf War, and he was there.

But I will say -- I brought up to him, I said -- although we could not ask about his innocence or guilt when I met him, I said: "I grew up here. This bombing made me very angry, very angry. And I just had to tell you this." And he turned cold. And his lawyers and his biographers say that Timothy McVeigh could wear several masks, and I saw him change from one mask to another almost immediately, Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Mike. Our own Okie, Mike Boettcher, from Oklahoma City tonight. Many thanks to you.

At McVeigh's request, no immediate family members came to the execution here in Terre Haute, Indiana. His father Bill made his final visit, his last visit, back in April and this weekend. And today, Bill McVeigh went into seclusion.

Normally, he lives in Pendleton, New York, just outside of Buffalo, New York. A local reporter though did catch up to Bill McVeigh today and Bill McVeigh informed him that he did watch the execution coverage on television and said that he was quote: "all right when it was all over."

Meanwhile, at the White House, President Bush spoke about 90 minutes after the execution was announced here, and McVeigh was announced dead. President Bush calling it, in his words, not vengeance but rather justice. Here is the president from earlier this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under the laws of our country, the matter is concluded. Life in history bring tragedies and often, they cannot be explained. But they can be redeemed. They are redeemed by dispensing justice, though eternal justice is not ours to deliver. By remembering those who grieve, including Timothy McVeigh's mother, father and sisters, and by trusting in purposes greater than our own. May God in His mercy grant peace to all, to the lives that were taken six years ago to the lives that go on. And to the life that ended today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: President Bush from earlier this morning at the White House.

For the record here in Terre Haute, there are 1,300 inmates in prison behind me, but to cover this story, more than 1,400 members of the media were in Terre Haute to watch and witness the execution that occurred this morning.

ANNOUNCER: Across the ocean, protesters mark McVeigh's execution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Britain stopped hanging people in 1965, and while there's virtually no support for Timothy McVeigh, there is also little support for killing him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a terrible, terrible thing, but to go and watch somebody be executed...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's more of a punishment if he was locked up for life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: CNN's Christiane Amanpour on European reaction. Does today's execution give closure to those who survived and those who lost family and friends? We will speak with syndicated columnist and psychologist, Dr. Joyce Brothers, when our special report, "The McVeigh Execution" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: This was the first federal execution in 38 years, but at the state level, more than 700 executions have taken place, dating back to 1977. And it is that record that has a number of European leaders not happy with the U.S. policy.

From London tonight and the European perspective, here is Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There were a few protests around European capitals, where the death penalty has been abolished and where there is a growing movement against capital punishment in the United States. The U.S. and Japan are the only industrialized democracies that execute convicted criminals. Italy abolished the practice back in 1947.

ELISABETTA ZAMPARUTTI, ANTI-DEATH PENALTY CAMPAIGNER: The death penalty is a very primitive answer to the problem of criminality.

AMANPOUR: Britain stopped hanging people in 1965, and while there is virtually no support for Timothy McVeigh or his crime, there is also little support for killing him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's done a terrible, terrible thing, but to watch someone being executed...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's more of a punishment if he were locked up for life.

AMANPOUR: Others say, it's no deterrent, and simply reinforces violence in society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I say, I slapped my child for slapping a child. How's she going to learn that slapping a person is not right?

AMANPOUR: Amnesty International is conducting a worldwide effort against the U.S. death penalty. It says there were at least 1,457 executions in 27 countries in the year 2000. 88 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Amnesty says the death penalty in the U.S. is flawed and biased against blacks and poor people.

PIERS BANNISTER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: It's inflicted upon the innocent. It's inflicted after unfair trials, where defendants don't have adequate legal help under resourced lawyers. It's inflicted upon the mentally retarded.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, only the U.S.,Japan and Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union are known to execute the mentally retarded. France, which stopped guillotining convicts in 1977, is organizing the first world Congress against the death penalty later this month.

As the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Paris said, two things harm America's moral standing in Europe today: the death penalty and violent crime. Many here see McVeigh as a product of his society.

The movement here against the U.S. death penalty has grown with the presidency of George W. Bush. As Texas governor, he has signed 150 death warrants. During his inauguration, protesters delivered bags of petitions to U.S. embassies in Europe.

(on camera): Abolishing the death penalty is a precondition to belonging to the European Union, and after McVeigh's execution, a top European official said, that the way he died was wrong, that the death penalty was not a deterrent because it gave McVeigh the notoriety he so craved. And he urged the United States to change its position on the death penalty, to bring it in line with the vast majority of the free and Democratic world.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: When we come back here, Dr. Joyce Brothers and putting today in perspective.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA BUCK, NIECE OF VICTIM: People didn't get closure, didn't get anything from this. I got a lot from it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN JONES, WIFE OF VICTIM: My closure will come the day I die and go to heaven to be with Larry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: She is one of the most recognized psychologists in the world. She is syndicated in more than 175 newspapers. She has written numerous books in her lifetime.

Dr. Joyce Brothers, live with us tonight from New York City, and we say good evening to you, and welcome to our program and our special report looking back at this execution that we saw earlier this morning here in Terre Haute. I heard a number of people say, not associated in any way with the bombing in Oklahoma City, say that they supported the execution but they thought they would feel better after it was completed. But they don't. They find themselves that way. To those people tonight, what do you say?

DR. JOYCE BROTHERS, PSYCHOLOGIST: I say that there are certain events that are flashbulb events that we will remember for the rest of our lives. From the time that JFK was shot and we realized it was possible to the time he died, we remember all the details, tiny details, from the salute of the little child to the rest of the whole time that he was buried. And this is something that will stay with us forever. For the first time, our innocence was totally lost at the idea that an American could make this horrendous, terrible act against other Americans, thoughtless, horrible, cruel.

And for every one of those families, there is no such thing as closure. It's as if they threw 52 cards up in the air and every card will come down differently. There will never be a birthday, as long as they live, that will not be bittersweet. There will never be a Christmas, there will never be a Thanksgiving without the feeling of loss, of grief. of mourning. It's a little bit like a fire walk. You can't just say, "I'm halfway across the coals. I'm going to have closure now." You've got to get to the other side, and you never do. The edges soften a little bit but it remains there.

And even for people who listen today to the news, who wanted all the details, because it is so important, because it is a flashbulb moment in our lives that we'll remember forever, I have had innumerable calls from parents who say, well, what can I tell my kids? They're terrified by this whole event. How can I deal with it?

HEMMER: Would it have been easier for survivors, victims, families of the victims -- had Timothy McVeigh honestly said an apology before this morning's execution?

BROTHERS: There's no apology that's possible under these circumstances. Nothing will bring back those people who are beloved. And they were hoping for an apology, hoping to see some sign of remorse. We hope that human beings do feel remorseful when they've done terrible things, but more and more research now. that we can peer into the brain, we see that -- there was a study done of 41 murderers, and we find that the prefrontal cortex is no longer as functioning as people who were not murderers, 41 people who were matched in age and background. And so it isn't a necessary thing that people who have this difficulty will go on to be murderers, because parents and family can make a difference. They can teach impulse control.

But I think, as more and more we are aware, we are aware that something eventually can be done, because we have the techniques to study and to help those people who don't feel remorse, because there's nothing in their makeup that makes them feel remorseful. They feel very justified. And an apology from such a person is never a straight out apology, as we saw. He made an apology and then he took it back in the second sentence of his apology.

HEMMER: Dr. Joyce Brothers, live from New York tonight. Certainly, we appreciate your time, your thoughts as well. Many thanks to you.

BROTHERS: Thank you.

HEMMER: That concludes our special report live here from Terre Haute, Indiana. I'm Bill Hemmer, once again, live. We remind to you to stay tuned for "GREENFIELD AT LARGE," which immediately follows our program here. That comes up at the bottom of the hour.

And tonight, we leave you now with those who watched this morning. Their words and their memories. Good night now, from Terre Haute.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BYRON PITTS, WITNESSED MCVEIGH EXECUTION: When he looked at the news media, it was Tim McVeigh, the soldier. A defiant, perhaps even anger. When he looked at the survivors, very respectful. But in the end, when he turned his eyes to the camera in the ceiling and the warden began to read the changes, at that point, I won't say he was remorseful...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't even see him blink once after they started administering the drugs, and he died with his eyes open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked toward the ceiling where there happened to be a camera staring right at Oklahoma City, and at that point, his eyes seemed to roll back only slightly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was too easy. He just laid there and they told him to inject the medication, and he looked directly up at the camera in a dead stare at all of us, and he blinked a couple of times, and his blinks got a little bit slower. He was gone. He went to sleep. That was it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a totally expressionless, blank stare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I was hoping for, and I'm sure most of us was, is that we could see some kind of maybe, "I'm sorry."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't need to make a statement. He had a look of defiance, and if he could, he'd do it all over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a demarcation point. It's a period on the end of a sentence. This is the completion of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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