Final Moments

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First, check out the pictures that I posted today.

Tuesday, about 4 p.m. ET, we drove over to the State Department in Washington, D.C., to tape an interview with Karen Hughes. The State Department is about 12 blocks from the FOX News D.C. bureau. Karen now works at the State Department and has a very long and fancy job title (to go with a very important job) — but I have forgotten the job title. Technically it is appropriate to call her "Ambassador" but if you do, she says, "Call me Karen." This is what happened when one of our staff addressed her formally when she walked into the room. In other words, whether you agree with Karen or not, you must admit she is very friendly and down to earth.

Karen left Washington, D.C., in 2002 after working on the presidential campaign and then in the White House. She returned home to Texas with her family for three years but came back this summer after her son graduated high school and headed to college. Her new job, as you know from last night's show, is to promote the United States around the world. It is a huge challenge right now. In many places of the world there is a very dim view of us.

We did the interview at the State Department in a room specially constructed for interviews. It has a fake wall (see the pictures posted) that is quite elegant looking on television and has the State Department seal mounted on the wall. In times past, we have done interviews in other parts of the State Department (without fake walls/backdrop) but this room may be my preferred room. It looks quite dignified and how you would expect the State Department to look like. Next time you see an interview of the Secretary of State or a high-ranking official, pay attention to the background... it could be this room with the fake wall.

Incidentally, we spoke to Karen Hughes on tape for about 15-20 minutes and only aired about five minutes last night. The plan, assuming we can plan, is to air more of it as the week marches on.

Last night we also aired the interview with the family of George Smith, IV. He is the honeymooner who disappeared from a cruise ship last July. Many viewers wrote me asking about his wife. I was told by George's family that his wife was told by the FBI not to talk. I don't know if I believe the wife or not... but I do believe she told George's family that. George's family seemed like a very nice family. They only want answers. I hope they get them.

Two nights ago we reported on the execution of Tookie Williams at San Quentin in California. As with all executions, some members of the media are selected by the prison to witness the execution and later report on it. FOX's Adam Housley was one of those selected. Adam sent me an e-mail yesterday that describes his night and witnessing the execution. He begins the e-mail saying that he has seen death before. Yes, he has seen death before... he was on the scene last December covering the tsunami for FNC so he writes this e-mail from an interesting perspective:

E-mail No. 1 — from FNC's Adam Housley:

I have seen death before, but never actually witnessed a last breath. Tonight that changed. Tonight I saw the deep breaths of nervousness, the breaths of annoyance when an I.V. couldn’t be inserted… and the last quick breaths of air as a man's chest went still. This man wasn’t a friend, a member of my family, or even an acquaintance. This man was convicted of brutally murdering four innocent people, convicted of bragging about their last breaths. Tonight I saw his. The timeline is actually long and detailed. I have shortened it, without detracting from the important facts or feelings. The most captivating comes as 39 men and women walk into a light tan room and gaze through protected glass as this convicted killer, Stanley Tookie Williams is brought in, strapped down and put to death. The timeline goes like this — from beginning at 12:30 p.m. Monday, until this very moment 2:57 a.m. in California.

12:29 p.m. Monday: I have been picked as a witness to the Williams execution. We all await the governor's decision. Clemency from Arnold Schwarzenegger is really the last hope for those who claim Williams should live. It is this time that I get the tip, Clemency is denied and I call the word into our crews.

12:31 p.m. Monday: The drive to San Quentin begins. I arrive to the location outside the prison’s east gate a short time later. News crews now line the road, some protestors have arrived. In the background I see San Pablo Bay and the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. This location is beautiful; the men that are housed here are not.

6:30 p.m. Monday: At this point we leave for the west gate of San Quentin. It is here the witnessed and media crews will gather. Satellite trucks are lined up, I am sitting in ours awaiting the officers to waive us into the outer range of the prison.

7:04 p.m. Monday: We get clearance and we drive through the first gate of San Quentin. Here our truck is searched; we are patted down and then issued a pass depending on our clearance. Our satellite truck operators get blue media passes and I receive a gold badge, which signifies a witness to the execution. We than are escorted on a short drive to a location outside the San Quentin Prison main wall, but just in front of the main building.

9:00 p.m. Monday: Our first briefing inside the prison. We’re told that Williams has refused most of his rights. He requested no last meal, is watching little television and spends most of his time on the phone. He had six visitors, he spoke with each individually and the all together at the end of his meetings. The convicted killer also received a bundle of 50 letters, all spiritual in nature.

9:14 p.m. Monday: The 17 media witnesses are separated from the rest of the media mass inside the prison. We are escorted into a small room, then out a side door into a shuttle. Our trip is very short, maybe 100 yards or so. We go through yet another gate, this time we stop at the historical main building. Here we receive a quick briefing about grief, or psychological effects we might feel after watching an execution. The talk is short, to the point and understood. We then return via shuttle back through the gate and join the rest of the media.

11:00 p.m. Monday: I am now removing all my personal effects. I am only allowed the clothes I am wearing and a watch inside the viewing room. Off comes all jewelry, no money, no wallet, not even a receipt in my pocket is allowed. A pencil and sheets of paper will be provided once we get inside the main prison fence line. I give my outer coat and effects to my producer and prepare to load into the shuttle.

11:14 p.m. Monday: I am escorted onto the shuttle along with 16 other media witnesses. We are taken to the employee lounge, which is inside the main gate of San Quentin, but just outside of the east block, which is death row. Here we are patted down and each witness assigned a prison guard escort.

11:52 p.m. Monday: 10 prison officers form a makeshift wall that lines our path from the lounge area, perpendicular across a small road and into the death chamber viewing area.

11:53 p.m. Monday: As we await our short walk, I see the other witnesses enter the death chamber viewing area, we are guided into the room right behind them.

11:54 p.m. Monday: We enter the death chamber witness room. I am told it is called the execution chamber witness gallery. The exterior door is similar to what you see on a warship, or some cruise liners. It is heavy, metal and large rivets are visible. There is also a cell door that has been opened. The room itself is small, tan and has 20-foot ceilings. We are escorted to the east wall and are asked to stand on two risers, similar to ones used by church choirs. Everything is tan, except the chamber. It protrudes like half of a giant octagon into our narrow rectangular room. The execution chamber is all green. On the outside, on the inside and even the table and its pads... all green. There is a tan railing about a foot from the thick glass, it curves around the chamber. The setup reminds me of being at an aquarium. The execution chamber looks like a tank and is obviously airtight. The room is dim and there are about 12 people sitting in folding chairs that line the railing. The media is on risers on the east wall, official witnesses on risers on the south wall and the Tookie Williams witnesses (he is allowed 5) are on risers on the west wall.

11:58 p.m. Monday: Five prison officers escort the prisoner into the room. Williams is older than the pictures, his hair is speckled grey and cut short. He wears wire-rimmed glasses and a light blue colored, short-sleeve shirt. His pants are dark blue and he wears white socks. He is chained around his waist and that is attached to handcuffs. He shows no fight as officers lie him down on the green padded doctors table. He is strapped across the ankles with large black straps. His chest is large and expands and contracts deeply and rapidly, it appears he is nervous. Outside I can hear helicopters faintly; they have circled San Quentin for several hours, providing security.

12:01 a.m. Tuesday: Stanley Williams has a short grey speckled beard. He raises his head a bit as prison officers fix more large black straps across his knees. His arms are secured next and he turns his head to the left. From that vantage he can see his five allowed witnesses. Two layers, three friends. They exchange glances, nods and he mouths words to them that we cannot see. At this point the convict is strapped at the waist and a shoulder harness is attached. Cables from the heart monitor can be seen running from under his shirt out into the chambers back area and into a heart monitor machine.

12:03 a.m. Tuesday: The officers finish the securing of Stanley Williams, the handcuffs and chains are removed in favor of the straps. All prison personnel inside the chamber now wear surgical gloves. Up until now, we have only seen men in the room with Williams, but the officer who enters with the medical supplies is a woman. She quickly inserts an I.V. into the convicts' right arm. I still hear helicopters outside and the room is eerily quiet. We were warned that no talking, loud sobbing, or outbursts would be allowed. The only sound besides the distant helicopters comes from pencils writing feverishly onto lined paper, reporters making every effort to get every detail as the execution process and protocol continues just eight feet or so from where I am standing. In the room all witnesses are fixated on the process behind the airtight glass. The metal strips that separate the panes still reminds me of being at an aquarium, or inside a submarine. As Williams continues to mouth words to his witnesses, his attorney begins to sway nervously. He is one of the five and looks down at the ground; he and Williams will eventually make eye contact and nod at each other.

12:08 a.m. Tuesday: There seems to be some problem with attaching the second I.V. to Williams left arm. As the prison officers struggle, Williams raises his head fully for the first time. He is strapped down so tightly his movement mimics someone who is a quadriplegic. He appears to look over his body and assess his predicament. He sighs and puts his head back down.

12:10 a.m. Tuesday: After surveying the room with the head movement he is allowed, Williams turns his head to his right. He stares at the media, as if to try and intimidate. It is a long look and one that attempts to pierce our being in the room. There is no mistaking, even as this man awaits death, he is attempting to be in control. He is attempting to intimidate. He stops after about 10 seconds or so. His breathing is still deep and nervously quick. His massive chest continues to fluctuate distinctly.

12:14 a.m. Tuesday: As the work continues to find a vein in Williams left arm, he sighs and then leans his head up and says disgustingly, "Still can't find it." The female officer rises up, she is sweating and with the back of her wrist she wipes her brow. You can tell the stress is building and it is beginning to penetrate the glass and envelope many in the room.

12:17 a.m. Tuesday: The I.V. process is finally finished. The room is now getting heavy, the air thick and warming. Two officers now take rolls of adhesive tape and tape the convict's wrists, hands and fingers. Williams now looks like he has two casts on his hands, it is obvious we will see no movement when he is put to death. Williams continues to look left and continues to mouth words to his supporters.

12:19 a.m. Tuesday: Now that the body has been prepared, the table is unhooked and swung around. No longer are we looking at Stanley Williams' right side, we now see the top of his head. There is no sweat and his chest continues to breathe deeply. Williams once again looks over his predicament, he now has to strain to see his supporters. His attorney smiles and nods his head. Williams wiggles his toes inside his white socks.

12:21 a.m. Tuesday: A small metal round hole opens in the vault like door that separates the execution chamber from the viewing room. A paper is handed through that is read by a female officer inside our viewing room. Her words echo through the lifeless chamber. The announcement ends with "Stanley Williams has been found guilty of first degree murder and special circumstances... the execution shall now proceed."

12:22 a.m. Tuesday: Williams looks around one last time and nods his head towards his five witnesses/supporters. One woman covers her face.

12:24 a.m. Tuesday: The first drug has been administered into the I.V. Williams gulps several times. He appears to pass out as his deep quick breaths become shorter. They become quicker and shorter by the second. His large chest begins to move slower and his toes no longer move, his head no longer strains or moves.

12:25 a.m. Tuesday: The room is still silent. Pencils work furiously. People strain to see any movement by Williams. Witnesses shift nervously and his lawyer looks away. The convict is still.

12:34 a.m. Tuesday: The witness room seems to be getting smaller. People shift from one leg to another. We still hear the helicopters and the pencils and we also hear talking inside the airtight execution chamber. We cannot discern what is being said, we believe it is the attending doctor confirming the inmate has now been put to death.

12:36 a.m. Tuesday: The small hole in the door is opened again and another note is passed through to the African American female guard. He words once again echo through this stale environment. She says in part, "May I have your attention please, Warden Steve
Ornoski declares inmate Stanley Williams dead." Pronounced dead at 12:35 by the attending physician, the room is now still. The pencils have stopped, the helicopters cannot be heard, and a few of the victim's family members have begun to quietly cry.

12:37 a.m. Tuesday: The lifeless body strapped is still strapped to the table. There are no officers in the room, he is alone and the subject of stares. Two officers now undue two sets of curtains that are pale tan and similar to shower curtains. They slide them around the semicircle rods and separate the dead inmate from the room. The first to be led out are the Williams supporters and the legal council leaves without incident or comment. The same cannot be said for the three others. Two African American women and one man in chorus yell, "The State of California has murdered an innocent man." Their words catch the room by surprise and one of the victim's family members is consoled. She is Laura Owens, the stepmother of Albert Owens. He was shot twice in the back by Williams and his last breath was touted by the killer to his friends. Now Williams’s last breath has been witnessed by 37, who will tell this experience to the world.

12:38 a.m. Tuesday: We file out of the room, meet again with our assigned guards and are escorted back onto the shuttle. We then are taken back to the media staging area inside the outer prison wall. There we give a press conference and recount our thoughts and experiences.

My closing thoughts are simple. I was nervous at first, unsure what to expect. I now understand this process is choreographed down to the number of surgical gloves in the execution chamber. The lethal injection execution is clinical, it is sterile and in the minds of a great majority of California voters, it is a just process. I leave with an understanding and with an experience I will never forget. My thoughts as I sit here outside the damp cold gates on San Quentin are with the victims and the incredible hurt their families have endured and will endure throughout their lifetimes.
Adam Housley

Inside the San Quentin prison wall reporting for us on Monday night was also FNC's Claudia Cowan. She was part of the media group brought inside the walls, but not permitted to witness the execution. Her position allowed for reporting from a viewpoint different from Adam's. As you might imagine, the moving of the media inside the prison was rather regimented for security reasons and we did not know when it would happen. At 10 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT, while live on the air, I happen to go to Claudia on the phone. Unknown to me, it was an rather awkward time for Claudia, but she "pulled it off" — see the next e-mail:

E-mail No. 2 — from Claudia Cowan:

I tell you Greta, right as you were tossing to me for the A Block phoner, I was being rushed off a prison van and into a press area, and I was reading my live shot notes off my laptop which I was hauling off the van along with my purse, backpack, and clipboard full of papers... If you could have seen me, you'd have laughed... and all these other reporters exiting the van hearing me say "Greta..." and knowing full well I was doing a live hit for you — staring at me — it was surreal.
But, I'm glad it all worked out!
Take care and happy holidays,

Claudia sent me a second/follow-up e-mail to her first:

E-mail No. 3 — from Claudia Cowan:

I had tried to get into place by 7:00 local time, but the shuttle taking all the press onto the prison grounds was delayed, security was tight and it took time to get us all checked in, and the upshot was that right at the top of the hour, the van arrived at the press area, and we all had to exit — JUST as you were tossing to me.
I hope I didn't sound out of breath!
Also, the other reporters who were present for all this weren't mean or anything... I think they all understood the pressures of live news, and just looked on as I tried to get you the story without tripping while leaving the shuttle with all my stuff.
Claudia Cowan

As I mentioned before, we gets all sorts of surprises on our show. Most often we book guests day of interview except when it is an interview of an author. We can plan those — and we did — we planned last night to have author/lawyer Matt Dalton. He wrote a book about Scott Peterson entitled, "Presumed Guilty." Dalton worked for attorney Mark Geragos for a short time.

He was scheduled to do our show last night but six hours before the show he bowed out. I don't get it. I think he is afraid... but of what? I just want to know why he thinks Peterson is not guilty. I was at the trial and I am satisfied with the jury's verdict (although no one should care whether I am satisfied or not) and thus am curious why he thinks the jury is wrong. Maybe he knows something I don't about the case. I would like to hear it since I am simply curious.

But, what has now caught my attention is how much time we at the show have spent on the phone with him, with his publicist, etc., about his appearance on the show. He had been rather coy on agreeing to an interview so more than one person worked on this and/or talked to him. I have also spoken to Dalton and his publicist. On Monday night I spoke to him and he assured me he would do the show on Tuesday so we planned for it. I said, "great" and left it at that. Some time after that he got cold feet. Go figure... not sure why he is running from us. If he wants to sell books, it makes sense to appear on the cable news show that commands the most viewers at that hour.

One final note: Yesterday, as I foolishly ate a non-nutritious lunch at my desk (a box of Dots!) I wondered about how non-nutritious or nutritious your lunch was. So, what did you have for lunch? I am curious what Americans are REALLY doing for lunch. If everyone eats junk — no wonder so many get sick and have weight issues — e-mail me what you ate yesterday for lunch (and be honest). And yes, I am not going to make it a habit to have Dots for lunch. I intend to do better today. Dots may be my low point for lunch — but I do love them.

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