TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – In the next few weeks, Timothy McVeigh will sit in his 8-by-10-foot cell at the U.S. Penitentiary and make a series of decisions about his death.
What does he want for his last meal?
Where does he want his belongings sent?
Who will receive his body?
McVeigh, 32, has lived with the specter of death since he was sentenced in 1997 for the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. Now, with a little more than a month to live, the former GI faces various procedural steps leading up to his execution May 16.
"He's very familiar with all the protocols of the execution, and he deals with it in the way he deals with everything, in a very methodical, businesslike manner," said McVeigh attorney Nathan Chambers.
In the two weeks before his execution, McVeigh is expected to submit a witness list -- which can include one spiritual adviser, two lawyers and three adult family members -- and settle his personal affairs
He also must submit a last meal request at least a week before the execution. The meal can come from the prison or any restaurant in the Terre Haute area but cannot cost more than $20.
The bomber will also have to consider his last words. According to the recently published book "American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Oklahoma City Bombing," McVeigh has already chosen what he will say:
"I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul."
It is an excerpt from William Ernest Henley's 19th-century poem "Invictus."
Robert Jay Lifton, co-author of the book Who Owns Death?, an examination of the psychology of capital punishment, said McVeigh may try to "create a kind of mythology" about himself in his final weeks.
"With McVeigh, it's very hard to know how he will behave exactly," Lifton said. "But one might suspect that he would try to structure his martyrdom in some way by creating the narrative of how he dies."
For most of the next few weeks, McVeigh will be in his usual cell. He has a television and can exercise indoors or in a caged, outdoor area. Family members, a spiritual adviser or his lawyers can visit.
Two to three days before his 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, a windowless, two-story brick building surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire.
The transfer will be done in such a way that no other inmates will catch a glimpse of McVeigh. His short walk from the van into the death house will be the last time he sees the outdoors.
He will be allowed to have a spiritual adviser walk with him to the death house, but that seems unlikely.
A nun from the Sisters of Providence who ministers to federal death row inmates said McVeigh has declined any spiritual counseling. And other inmates who have tried to speak to him about religion have been rebuffed.
"Often Tim will just change the subject when [an inmate] brings up something like that," said Sister Rita Clare Gerardot. "We don't understand the way he thinks. It's like he's justified."
Prison protocol says that when McVeigh enters the death house, he can bring only these items: a Bible, one religious item (a rosary, for example), five unframed personal photographs, one magazine, one paperback and a newspaper.
He will be kept in a 9-by-14-foot cell, with a small bed built into the tan 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 attorneys.
On May 16, he will change into prison-issue white briefs, khaki trousers, a white T-shirt, socks and slip-on shoes. After a slow march to the death chamber, McVeigh 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. About seven minutes later, the man responsible for the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil will take his final breath.