For the 5th time since last month, I’m outside the FCC Terre Haute training center. The Trump administration plans to kill Keith Dwayne Nelson in just over an hour. Media witnesses have not left yet. But I did see Nelson’s spiritual advisor being escorted to the prison earlier. ImageImage
Media witnesses are kept separate from non-witnessing press at this makeshift media center. But in a briefing earlier we were told the family of Nelson’s victim, 10-year-old Pamela Butler, will address reporters afterward. As far as any stays, BOP says “there are no impediments.”
Eight media witnesses just filed into the two vans, which are pulling away now. A number of these reporters have witnessed all four federal executions before today. A few more witnessed the execution of Lezmond Mitchell on Wednesday.
As I mentioned last time, the ACLU has sued for information on the impact of the previous executions on the Covid numbers here. Vigo County has seen numbers go up and up. At the training center, they take my temp and provide blue surgical masks and sanitizer. And signage. Image
Nelson pleaded guilty. But his lawyers raise familiar concerns. "The jury returned a death verdict without hearing about his severe organic brain damage...mental illness, or the unimaginable physical and sexual traumas he suffered throughout his childhood and adolescence."
According to Nelson's attorneys, "Even the lone prosecution expert’s testing demonstrated that Keith’s frontal lobe dysfunction places him near the bottom 1% of the population in terms of his executive functioning."
Then there is the concern over the method of execution. A preliminary autopsy for Wesley Purkey, who was killed last month, showed signs of pulmonary edema, a red flag in numerous executions by lethal injection, including those carried out w/pentobarbital. deathpenaltyinfo.org/news/autopsy-r…
As before, activists under the banner of Terre Haute Death Penalty Resistance are gathered across from the prison, next to the Dollar General. Abe Bonowitz of @DeathPenaltyAct repeats his familiar refrain. “We remember the victims, but not with more killing.” ImageImageImageImage
As activists tolled the bell at 4pm I asked some customers coming out of the Dollar General how they feel about the executions. One man said he’s indifferent, another angrily said he’s sick of the protests. A man in a Trump/Pence mask said he thinks the condemned deserve to die.
One woman said that she does not condone what any of the men did, but said it is up to God to decide their fates. She doesn’t believe in the death penalty. (I was then told by the Dollar General staff that they were getting complaints about me. But they were very nice about it!)
Just got the email from BOP spokesperson: "Please report back to the Media Center at this time if you choose to." The execution of Keith Nelson is almost certainly complete.
Pamela Butler’s mother and two daughters took questions from the press for about 9 minutes. They said they’ll now be at peace and described Pamela as a child who was well loved and who adored animals. They believe Keith Nelson was remorseless to the end. He had no last words. Image
An addendum to correct an earlier tweet: There were 6 media witnesses today. Fewer than previous executions. Like last time, I was rejected as a witness for both executions this week. I haven’t gotten an explanation from BOP as to the process used to select media witnesses.

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More from @LilianaSegura

12 Jan
Good evening from the FCC Terre Haute Training Center, where reporters are gathered to cover the execution of Lisa Montgomery. There is more press than usual tonight. Some, including myself, are here for the 11th time since July 2020.
Non-witnessing press are currently being briefed by BOP spokesperson Scott Taylor, who just told us that the victim’s family will not be addressing reporters after the execution.
These are the vans that take media witnesses to the penitentiary. The execution was originally scheduled for 6pm, but multiple stays have been in place at various times and litigation is ongoing. Everyone agrees it could be a long night and that this will come down to SCOTUS.
Read 33 tweets
19 Nov 20
Hello from Terre Haute, IN, where the Trump administration plans to execute 49-year-old Orlando Hall tonight. There is a stay currently in place, which I only found out about upon arriving at the media center a little while ago. Of course, this could change.
By now there are several familiar faces at the FCC Terre Haute Training Center, from the BOP official who lets us in to park, to the lady taking temperatures, to the spokesperson who gives the brief media orientation. These are the vans that take press witnesses to the prison.
Ordinarily BOP staffers provide little to no information to press about the status of appeals, etc. But we have been told there is “activity in the courts” and that it could be a long night. As far as the DOJ is concerned, the execution will happen, it is just a matter of when.
Read 31 tweets
24 Sep 20
Good morning from Terre Haute, IN, where the DOJ plans to kill another man in the federal death chamber tonight--the 7th since July. Christopher Vialva was 19 when he killed a young couple in Fort Hood, TX. His co-defendant is also on death row. He was 18. theintercept.com/2020/09/20/fed…
At 40, Vialva isn't the youngest man to face execution under Trump. Lezmond Mitchell was 38 when he died last month. Both did horrific things at 19. Advocates for both also describe how they grew up, showed remorse, contributed to the world around them. theintercept.com/2020/08/25/lez…
When the Supreme Court struck down death sentences for juveniles in 2005, it was on the basis that young people are less culpable for their crimes. Scientific research has long shown that brain development continues well into our 20s. None of us are the same people we were at 19.
Read 25 tweets
22 Sep 20
So, I’m back in Terre Haute, IN, where the Trump DOJ is preparing to carry out its 6th federal execution since July. These vans were at the FCC Terre Haute Training Center a moment ago, but they just left, carrying media witnesses for the killing of William LeCroy at 6pm. Image
It's hard to know what more to say right now. This is my third trip to Terre Haute this year, following a couple of visits in 2019. Some previous coverage here: theintercept.com/2020/08/02/fed… & here
theintercept.com/2020/08/25/lez… & here theintercept.com/2020/09/09/fed…
When I first visited Terre Haute last year, my first stop was the local library, which has a small archive related to the federal penitentiary. When it opened in 1940, a fawning press described it as “a hospital to cure men of tendencies which make them socially undesirable.”
Read 28 tweets
9 Sep 20
I wrote (again) about the events in Terre Haute, where the Trump administration killed two more people last month. At least two more federal executions are set for this year, with additional dates likely to be on the way. theintercept.com/2020/09/09/fed…
One thing I want to quickly highlight is an interview I got too late to include in my previous piece about Lezmond Mitchell, whose lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get permission from the court to investigate racial bias among jurors. (More on that here): theintercept.com/2020/08/25/lez…
On the eve of Mitchell's death, I spoke to the jury foreperson. Despite the fact that she was among 11 white jurors (& one Navajo) she remembers thinking it was people "from all walks of life...all kinds of backgrounds. And I thought, Wow, this is really...a jury of your peers.”
Read 6 tweets
26 Aug 20
Hello again from Terre Haute, IN, where the Trump administration plans to kill Lezmond Mitchell in just over an hour. Last month, 3 men were executed here in one week. I’m back at the FCC Terre Haute training center, where media witnesses should be leaving for the prison soon. Image
These are the vans that take reporters to the prison grounds, where they go through security before being led to the death chamber. There are some familiar faces here. A couple journalists here witnesses last months’ executions, which turned into punishing all-night ordeals. Image
Vans just pulled out. The execution appears to be set to take place on schedule.
Read 13 tweets

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