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:… & here… & here…
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.”
As I wrote in a story in Dec 2019, the new prison on the Wabash River was seen as a boon to the community at the time, promising jobs. The press "extolled its pioneering philosophy of incarceration, from a more benevolent architectural design to its philosophy of rehabilitation”
"Key to this rehabilitation was prison labor...[FCC Terre Haute] was one of the original sites for Federal Prison Industries, Inc, the govt corporation that generates hundreds of millions of dollars by paying incarcerated people less than a dollar per hour for manufacturing work"
Anyway, the supposed rehabilitative mission was eventually stripped away. The War on Drugs fueled the federal prison population — and in 1988, relaunched the federal death penalty, which was then vastly expanded by the Clinton administration in the 1990s.…
Moments ago, the vans returned to the training center, along with the media witnesses. Dunno why. At this point they are usually being processed through prison security before being taken to the death chamber. So perhaps there is a delay while litigation plays out. Image
View from the media room. This local reporter has witnessed all five executions until now. The first two executions in July became all-night ordeals for witnessing press and were decried as illegal by numerous death penalty lawyers.
As we wait, this is a critical new investigation into an ongoing area of concern & litigation. For years, autopsies of people executed via lethal injection have shown signs of pulmonary edema. NPR got even more autopsies, widening the scope of this inquiry…
One of the experts in the NPR investigation is Mark Edgar, whose findings on pulmonary edema were revelatory when I saw him testify during this TN trial in 2018. “I was struck by the abnormality in the lungs...All of the lungs were heavy with fluid.”…
These findings have been especially important in Ohio, where executions remain on hold, thanks in large part to a judge who actually has been willing to listen to the science.…
What I found most compelling about the NPR investigation is that it found evidence of pulmonary edema in the older autopsies of people executed using what used to be the prevailing execution method in the US: 3-drug lethal injection using sodium thiopental…
Last month, an autopsy report for Wesley Purkey (the second man to die in the federal execution chamber this year), showed signs consistent with pulmonary edema. But such evidence has not been enough to stop the subsequent executions.…
OK, so somehow I’ve been sitting on this bench outside the training center for more than 2 hours. No word yet. And no sense in going inside because the media room is restricted to media witnesses. No accommodations for non-witnessing press. Which is weird! At least it’s nice out. Image
Thread on litigation over William LeCroy's scheduled execution. Somewhat like other challenges before it, this one seeks to reschedule the execution for when the pandemic is over. LeCroy's lawyer is immunocompromised and can't be with his client.
Some movement in front of the training center. A driver just got into the first van & started the engine. BOP official in a suit & black facemask paused to talk to him. It'll be dark soon. Meanwhile one of the media witnesses has been tweeting from inside.
Media witnesses are filing back into the vans. Looks like things are moving forward.
At the Dollar General across from the prison, anti-death penalty activists have been protesting and holding vigil for hours. (Many have gone home by now. Another contingent of activists is in DC this time, protesting in front of the DOJ.) ImageImage
As we wait for word on the execution, here is background on LeCroy's case, including quotes from his clemency petition. He was convicted of raping and killing Joann Lee Tiesler, a 30-year-old nurse in Georgia.…
Email just came from BOP telling press to report back to the media center. This confirms that LeCroy has been executed.
A handful of activists still outside the Dollar General. Sister Barbara Battista, LeCroy’s spiritual advisor, will be meeting them soon. Image
The BOP provided this statement from the victim’s father, Tom Tiesler. Image
Sister Barbara Battista, LeCroy’s spiritual advisor, at the Dollar General after the execution. Whereas victims’ families are allowed to make a statement to the press, facilitated by the BOP, she & others who witness on behalf of the condemned are barred from the media center. Image
LeCroy mailed a last statement to Sister Barbara, which she was supposed to get before the execution. But it has yet to arrive. She says she will have more to say when it does. In the meantime, everyone is going home to try to get some rest. There’s another execution on Thursday.
It's late, but here's my story on the next man scheduled to die here. Christopher Vialva was with William LeCroy right until the BOP took him to his death tonight. Now he is alone on the death watch range. His mom is at a hotel nearby. More in the story.…

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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.…
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.…
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
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.…
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):…
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
28 Aug 20
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.
Read 14 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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