Federal prison officials here Friday began the final preparations for the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh--even as another death row inmate in Pennsylvania sought unsuccessfully to have McVeigh's death videotaped in an attempt to prove that capital punishment is cruel and unusual.
Although he spent Friday in his regular cell on death row, McVeigh now must obtain official approval from the warden at the U.S. penitentiary for any personal visits. And the prison staff was readying a van to move him from his cellblock to the new execution facility just outside the main prison building.
There he will remain inside the 9- by 14-foot holding cell until just before 7 a.m. local time Monday, when he will be dressed in khaki pants, shirt and slip-on shoes and escorted a few steps into the execution chamber.
The 33-year-old former soldier, who on Thursday dropped his last legal appeals, will be strapped to the gurney and given three chemical injections--the last to stop his heart. He will be the first person put to death by the U.S. government in 38 years.
"There's a team of people who've been formulated for the purpose of this execution," said Dan Dunne, chief spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. "They've been trained here, we've done mock exercises and we're training this week--just to ensure that everything is done in a coordinated manner."
But until the curtains are opened and witnesses can see McVeigh on the gurney, officials plan to reveal very little information about his final hours.
For instance, they will not discuss his last meal, his instructions on what is to be done with his body, even whether he has spoken by phone or in person with his attorneys, family or friends.
But they did say that they have amended a prison-wide "lock down" so that the rest of the inmates can watch the National Basketball Assn. championship series Sunday night.
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, a federal judge ordered that McVeigh's execution be videotaped, only to then have a federal appeals court block the order.
U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill granted the request to videotape the execution at the urging of lawyers in an unrelated case who are trying to show that the federal death penalty violates the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
But the ruling was stayed by the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
The ruling by Cohill involves a federal death penalty case against Joseph Minerd, charged in the pipe-bombing deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her daughter. Minerd was charged under the federal arson and bombing law that also was used in the Oklahoma City bombing case.