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McVeigh's Comments Published in Buffalo Paper

Aired June 10, 2001 - 07:00   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.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin this morning with more words of defiance from Tim McVeigh. In a letter to his hometown newspaper, the Oklahoma City bomber once again attempts to justify the loss of 168 lives.

The execution is set to happen 25 hours from now at the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. CNN's Susan Candiotti is there -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Miles. It is a foggy Sunday morning here and with a little more than 24 hours left before Timothy McVeigh's execution. By the next hour, he is supposed to have been taken to the death house where he will be put to death.

Now, he almost certainly has been moved by now, although prison officials have not said so. We do know McVeigh has spoken by phone with his family to say goodbye and that he spent part of Saturday writing letters.

McVeigh's hometown newspaper, "The Buffalo News," today is publishing recent letters it received from him, first and foremost an apology of sorts.

In McVeigh's words: "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."

McVeigh time and again has said that his motive for the Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed 168 lives, was to seek revenge against a federal government he believed was out of control, especially after sieges at Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Also, McVeigh, through his attorney, says he is not afraid to die and that he has no belief or disbelief in God. Quoting his recent letter to "The Buffalo News," McVeigh repeats that he is an agnostic and says, "If I am going to hell, I'm going to have a lot of company."

Finally, McVeigh insists to the newspaper again that he, Terry Nichols, Michael and Lori Fortier were the only ones who knew about his killer attack in advance.

Quoting here, "For those die-hard conspiracy theorists who will refuse to believe this, I turn the tables and say, `show me where I needed anyone else? Financing? Logistics? Specialized text skills? Brainpower? Strategy? Show me where I needed a dark, mysterious Mr. X.'"

As we approach the execution we ask what is life like here on death row in Terre Haute? Well, for 10 years, a convicted marijuana kingpin and killer was the first in line to die when federal executions resumed. He is David Chandler and he is now serving a life term in Leavenworth.

David Chandler talked with CNN's Jim Polk about what life was like living under the shadow of death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM POLK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David Ronald Chandler, a marijuana boss in the hills of Alabama, was the first man condemned to die under the federal drug kingpin law.

DAVID RONALD CHANDLER: I am certainly not a drug kingpin.

POLK: Chandler talked about his 10 years on death row at first in his home state.

(on camera): What was life like on death row at Alabama -- in the Alabama prison?

CHANDLER: You're in a five by eight cell. It's rather small. You can almost palm it like this. You sit there on that bunk and just sweat all day and you sweat all night.

It's best not to make a real close friend, if you understand what I'm saying.

Over a period of time after you go through like six or eight executions, I don't know how to say that, but you don't get used to it but then again it doesn't bother you as it did -- as it once did when you -- you know, when they executed the guy to your left in the next cell.

POLK: What are those nights like?

CHANDLER: The majority of the people stay up. And right at the point of the execution, begins to take place, they go to beating the bars, and it is one noisy place. They go just to hollering and to screaming just as loud -- the whole -- all of death row does it.

POLK (voice-over): In 1995, Chandler came within a week of dying before he won a court stay. In July 1999, the federal death row opened in Indiana. With 19 other prisoners, Chandler rode two buses taking them inside those brick walls.

(on camera): In that 23-hour a day lock down, are you able to converse with those around you?

CHANDLER: It's very hard. You have to lay down and there's a -- in some of them there's a crack under the door that you have to really scream out and under the door for a guy to hear you. POLK (voice-over): His appeals running out, Chandler didn't speak to his family for a year-and-a-half because he thought death awaited him.

(on camera): How do you feel about the resumption of federal executions as the date approaches?

CHANDLER: I think they should all be halted because innocent people are put on death row. I'm a living testament to that. They can be put on death row.

POLK: But surely, not all the people around you were innocent.

CHANDLER: Everyone doesn't maintain their innocence on death row. I found that the great majority of the people on death row admit their crime.

POLK (voice-over): Some become resigned to death.

CHANDLER: They just carry on just as normal as you can being locked up for 23 hours a day. But there's no difference. Their demeanor is no different. They just prepare themselves -- they prepare themselves for that fate. And it -- I've seen it done.

POLK (on camera): That not all their tomorrows are coming.

CHANDLER: That's right. That's right. There are others that are belligerent about it, but others that aren't.

POLK (voice-over): Chandler was sentenced to death after a confessed gunman said he shot a man for Chandler.

CHANDLER: I never hired him to kill anyone. I've never hired him to do anything.

POLK (on camera): What do you say to his testimony that it was your truck that transported the body to the abandoned moonshine still and that you helped him bury the body?

CHANDLER: These facts are irrelevant to the case because I was tried for murder for hire, and it is not so.

POLK: Were a marijuana grower?

CHANDLER: They accused me of that.

POLK: Were you?

CHANDLER: Certainly not to the point that they said that I was.

POLK (voice-over): Even after the gunman recanted his testimony, Chandler's appeals were turned down.

CHANDLER: So there I was at Terre Haute until two hours before President Clinton went out of office. He gave me clemency because of the merits of my case. POLK (on camera): If your sentence had not been converted to life in prison what would have happened?

CHANDLER: I would have an execution date for probably about right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: About five hours from now, Timothy McVeigh will be getting his final meal. Prison officials will spend no more than $20 on it -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Susan Candiotti in Terre Haute.

Now, to the sight of the 1995 blast, Oklahoma City. About 300 victims and relatives of victims will gather for a closed-circuit viewing of the execution of Tim McVeigh.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Oklahoma City with that perspective -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles. Susan mentioned that it was foggy in Indiana. Here in Oklahoma City, just the opposite, a crystal clear, blue morning.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial has been the site of many somber ceremonies since it opened in February of this year. But 24 hours from now, when Timothy McVeigh is executed in Indiana, there will silence at this memorial site.

There are no official events planned for Monday and that's the way victims' families and survivors want it to be. As they say, this peaceful ground is not about Timothy McVeigh anymore.

But as the execution hour draws closer, emotions are intense in Oklahoma City.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY SELLS, WIFE KILLED IN BOMBING: I thought they should put him in a building that they're going to implode, you know, chain him to it somewhere and then let me have the detonator and let me do the job at my own time. So I think that's the way he took their lives to -- you know, crushing of little children and husbands and wives and grandpas and everything else. So he's getting away really, really easy compared to what those 168 people had to go through.

JANNIE COVERDALE, TWO GRANDCHILDREN KILLED: I couldn't do anything like that. He is somebody's son. I have children. I have sons. And God, I hope my sons never do anything to hurt anybody as bad as Tim has hurt us. But no, I couldn't give him the needle. Tim's execution won't be a time of celebration for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: More than 1,200 visitors come to the Oklahoma National Memorial every day and they find comfort in the words of the mission statement. It says, "We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those who were changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity."

And for the victims' families and survivors, no doubt that they find comfort in those words.

I'm Ed Lavandera in Oklahoma City. Miles, back to you.

O'BRIEN: Stay with CNN for extensive coverage of the impending execution of Tim McVeigh.

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