McVeigh, the first man to be put to death by the federal government since 1963, died silently and with his eyes open. Witnesses said he made eye contact with supporters and members of the media before staring directly at a camera beaming video of the proceedings to Oklahoma City during the procedure.
McVeigh did not make a final statement, but issued a copy of the 1875 poem “Invictus,” which ends with the lines, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Three different chemicals were injected into McVeigh’s right leg: one to make him unconscious, one to stop his breathing, and a final drug to stop his heart.
An hour after the execution, President Bush said he considered the McVeigh matter concluded.
“Today, every living person who was hurt by the evil done in Oklahoma City can rest in the knowledge that there has been a reckoning,” Bush said.
Prison officials in Terre Haute, Ind. said McVeigh was declared dead at 8:14 a.m. Eastern time. The Associated Press reports the execution process began six minutes after its 8 a.m. scheduled start due to technical troubles with the video link to Oklahoma City.
Around 250 people there — all bombing survivors or those who lost loved ones in the blast — gathered to watch today’s proceedings in a highly-secured, government-provided broadcast.
Martha Ridley, the mother of a bombing victim who now cares for her two orphaned granddaughters, was one of those who watched the execution.
“It is definitely time for Mr. McVeigh to go,” she told the Associated Press before the death sentence was carried out. “And the only thing I’m going to say after that is, `Good, I’m glad he’s gone.'”
Preparing for death
Prison officials say the 33-year-old McVeigh spent his final hours sleeping intermittently and eating his chosen final meal of ice cream.
McVeigh also met briefly with his lawyers, and later with prison officials to discuss details of the execution.
The execution procedure followed more than fifty pages of protocol — a specific series of events that brought McVeigh from his death row cell to an isolation room yesterday, to the execution chamber this morning.
Prison officials had prepared for thousands to swarm a makeshift protest area in a Terre Haute city park, but shortly before McVeigh’s execution, only around 140 protesters — supporters and opponents of the death penalty — had gathered.
Around 1,400 members of the media were on hand in Terre Haute to cover the event.
Meanwhile, a group meeting at the Oklahoma City National Memorial at the bombing site held a silent vigil of 168 minutes — one for each person killed in the bombing.
McVeigh’s death comes more than six years after the bombing at Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Building he’s convicted of planning and executing.
Last legal maneuvers
The legal battle to keep McVeigh from the execution chamber ended only days before today’s execution.
McVeigh called off more than three weeks of legal maneuvers on Thursday, deciding not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution.
Lawyers for McVeigh had argued federal officials knew six months ago that FBI documents had been withheld from the McVeigh trial, but had failed to do anything about it until six days before the original May 16 execution date.
They said information in those documents could have affected the jury’s decision in penalty phase of the trial.
But U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch ruled June 6 the documents cast no doubt on McVeigh’s guilt in the bombing.
Previously unreleased documents from the Oklahoma City case, including notes and transcripts from interviews, were found at various FBI offices last month. Attorney General John Ashcroft delayed McVeigh’s execution to give defense attorneys time to review the documents.
In testimony before Congress, FBI Director Louis Freeh admitted that not turning over the documents promptly was a “serious error” on the agency’s part.