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Move to death house marks first of lasts for McVeigh

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 8, 2001


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Timothy McVeigh could take his final drive outdoors as early as this morning, making the short trip from death row to the death house.

His move will end a week of constant change and uncertainty as McVeigh sought a stay of execution that didn't come.

On Thursday, he decided to stop fighting after learning that a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his lawyers "utterly failed to demonstrate substantial grounds" why he should not be put to death.

Though he has had months to consider his request for a last meal, even those plans haven't been finalized. Warden Harley Lappin said McVeigh has yet to make up his mind on what he will request. "He keeps changing it," Lappin said.

This much is certain: It can come from the prison or any restaurant in Terre Haute, but it cannot cost more than $20.

In the past two weeks, McVeigh, 33, submitted a witness list and settled his personal affairs. He previously had given his belongings to the other 19 men on federal death row.

He has long pondered his last words. According to the recently published book American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Oklahoma City Bombing, McVeigh has chosen an excerpt from William Ernest Henley's 19th century poem Invictus.

"I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."

It isn't known when McVeigh will be moved to the death house, a windowless, two-story brick building surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire.

Some time before the 8 a.m. EDT Monday execution, McVeigh will be placed in a Bureau of Prisons vehicle under heavy guard and driven about 500 yards from death row to the death house.

The transfer will be done in such a way that no other inmates will see McVeigh. His short walk from the van into the death house will be the last time he is outdoors.

Prison protocol says that when McVeigh enters the death house, he can bring only these items: a Bible, one other religious item, five unframed personal photographs, one magazine, one paperback and a newspaper.

He will be kept in a 9-foot-by-14-foot cell, with a small bed built into the wall, a wall-mounted metal table and a toilet. On one wall are windows that look into a guards' office. McVeigh will be monitored around the clock.

Personal calls from the death house will be suspended 24 hours before the execution. McVeigh will be able to speak only with his lawyers.

On June 11, McVeigh will change into prison-issued white briefs, khaki trousers, a white T-shirt, socks and slip-on shoes. He will walk across the white and gray tile floor, past the green tile walls and the clock that will register his time of death.

He will be strapped to a T-shaped gurney and given a lethal injection.

McVeigh's last days also will affect the rest of the prison population. Lappin said there would be a lockdown Sunday night, which was to begin at midnight EDT.

But it may be delayed. Many of the inmates will want to watch an NBA championship playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers that night. Lappin said the lockdown might be delayed until after the game.

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