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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vans just pulled out. The execution appears to be set to take place on schedule.
Hi again from Terre Haute, where Dustin Honken is scheduled to die in less than an hour and a half—the third execution this week. Most people seem to think he will be killed on schedule, at 4pm ET.
Again, these are the vans that take witnessing press into the prison for processing. A number of reporters here spent spent all night Wednesday waiting on the execution of Wesley Purkey yesterday—after already staying up all night Monday for the killing of Daniel Lee Tuesday AM.
Vans just left a few minutes ago. It looked like fewer witnesses this time, but would have to check to be sure. I’ve been told that the victims’ families will release a written statement afterward but will not speak directly to the press.
Hello again from hot, humid Terre Haute, where activists are back, shaken from yesterday’s execution of Daniel Lee , but committed to getting their message out. Wesley Purkey is set to die at 7pm but there are a number of challenges & a preliminary injunction currently in place.
Here are the vans that will take the media witnesses to the execution when the time comes. A number of reporters who witnessed Lee’s execution are back to witness Purkey’s.
Unlike last time, where there was no press conference, the victims’ family have said that they want to give a statement to the press after the execution. Non-witnessing media have been told we, too, can attend—an important change to a rule that didn’t make sense to begin with.
Greetings from the parking lot of the FCC Terre Haute Training Center, where I’m sitting in my car while we wait for word on whether the execution of Daniel Lee, originally scheduled for 4pm, will go forward. Why my car you ask?
Good question! Unlike prison officials in say, Oklahoma or Arkansas, where I have previously covered executions, the federal government has not set up a media center on site for press who are here but who have not been selected to witness.
Instead, we were told to report to this small white building north of the prison complex on Route 63 between 2-2:45pm. Masks would be required, and our temperatures would be checked. No further details were given.
Good morning from Terre Haute, IN, where anti-death penalty activists are speaking across the street from the prison where Daniel Lewis Lee is to be put to death this afternoon.
Victims’ family members have repeatedly spoken out against Daniel Lee’s execution, most recently seeking to postpone it so that they may attend without risking their lives by traveling and witnessing amid a pandemic. They have been denied.
BREAKING: A cheer just went up among the activists as this news came through
So last month I wrote about how Covid has spread at federal residential reentry centers (RRCs), which have been largely overlooked in the pandemic despite being uniquely poised to be vectors. The story was lost amid protest news but is worth revisiting. 1/ theintercept.com/2020/05/28/cor…
Today I published this story, about one of the hardest hit federal halfway house in the country, the Grossman Center in Leavenworth, Kansas, run by GEO Group, and part of a larger regional outbreak. 3/ theintercept.com/2020/06/17/hal…
I'll say this about Nashville's Metro Courthouse, which got hit last night. The last time I spent time there was for a trial that would allow TN to restart executions w/ a new lethal injection protocol. Days of detailed testimony on the torturous effects of drugs on human beings.
The state prevailed, of course. And TN has been on a killing spree ever since. Of 7 men executed, 4 have *chosen* the electric chair, to avoid the torture of lethal injection as adopted by the state. Not once has the governor intervened, the same man decrying last night's events.
Many are upset by the attack on the courthouse and, understandably, the breaking of a plaque commemorating Nashville’s Civil Rights heroes that stood there. But these institutions are also inscribed with the routine, premeditated violence of the state. They are inextricable.
I know I spent too much time tweeting about electoral politics last night because now I’m on a flight from LAX next to a pair of right-wing 20-somethings bonding over their shared persecution complex. This is clearly my cosmic comeuppance.
lol one of them is a cop
So this guy ended up being a sheriffs deputy who complained that socializing is impossible in L.A. bc “everyone hates cops” and then proceeded to brag about harassing this one parolee every time he sees him on the street. WHY do ppl hate cops, it is truly a mystery
Yesterday I accompanied a woman to see her loved one in prison. We left before dawn to make it for the AM visit. Several hours later, we were headed back home, our visit denied. I wanted to share a bit about the experience. 1/
As with all prisons, visits are limited to certain days. Our past 2 attempts had been canceled at the last minute after her loved one was thrown in the hole. He has serious health issues and they were really anxious for this visit. 2/
The drive was long, but smooth. We stopped to get quarters along the way, for the vending machines. Some prisons don’t allow money inside, so I thought maybe this facility was more relaxed than others I’ve been to. I was wrong. 3/
@chronic_jordan Last week I wrote about a protest against Tennessee's recent executions; most participants were not anti-death penalty activists until they came to know and care for people on death row, then watched in horror as the state began killing them. theintercept.com/2019/08/17/ten…
First, it’s about much more than politics, but some folks have taken umbrage at the framing/headline, as if I’m saying Dems are the ones REALLY to blame for Trump restarting executions. I invite those people to read the piece. Plenty of blame to go around. theintercept.com/2019/07/29/dea…
But if you’re mad I’m pointing out that the vast majority of people on federal death row are there bc of the 1994 Crime Bill, well, sorry. As one dp lawyer said, we’re only just starting to reckon w/the crime bill. “And we haven’t reckoned with the death penalty aspects” til now.
There's something truly surreal and crazy-making about covering issues like the death penalty and juvenile LWOP during these episodes in which people *freak out* when there is a shred of accountability for privileged white kids.
Re-upping my piece about Henry Montgomery, who was 16 when he was arrested. In 1963! Originally sentenced to die! And denied parole this year bc a white pal of the governor decided he hasn't worked hard enough in prison. But do lecture us about redemption. theintercept.com/2019/06/02/hen…
Goddammit, he was 17. Sorry. MY POINT REMAINS THE SAME.
Hello Twitter. Just a few words on my latest story with @chronic_jordan. In February 2016 we went to the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Las Vegas and wrote this piece. (Some of you may remember the rather colorful lede.) 1/6 theintercept.com/2016/03/25/in-…
At that time, the forensics world was increasingly embattled: crime lab scandals & exonerations were making news. Entrenched forensic practices had been shown to have little basis in science. But despite infighting, there were also signs things were on the road to reform. 2/6
Then came Trump and Jeff Sessions, threatening the fledgling gains. But politics were only part of the problem. As we’ve continued to attend AAFS meetings, we've seen some folks committed to getting forensics on more scientific footing, while others dig in their heels. 3/6