Judge Won't Delay McVeigh Execution
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 6, 2001; 1:41 p.m. EDT DENVER The judge in the Oklahoma City bombing case refused to delay the execution of Timothy McVeigh on Wednesday, saying newly released documents do not change the fact that he is guilty.
U.S. District Richard Matsch issued the ruling even though he had commented to lawyers that he found it "shocking" that documents had been withheld in the case until last month. He said the findings of the jury still stood.
"As the 12 jurors believe it (the verdict) is justified under all circumstances and executed their moral judgment as a conscience of the community, whatever may in time be discovered about the possible involvement of others does not change the fact that Timothy McVeigh was the instrument of death and destruction," Matsch said.
The execution is scheduled for next Monday.
"Whatever role others may have played it is clear Timothy McVeigh committed murder and mayhem as charged," he said, adding that McVeigh was at war against the United States government.
"But the United States government is not some abstraction, not some alien force. It is the American people, people in the Murrah Building who were there in service to their fellow American people."
Matsch's ruling came after the defense told him that documents revealed last month could have helped McVeigh and the prosecution urged that the execution go on as planned.
At a hearing that lasted a little more than an hour, defense lawyer Robert Nigh contended federal officials knew six months ago that there were documents being withheld but failed to begin turning them over until six days before McVeigh's original execution date, May 16.
He asked Matsch to grant McVeigh additional time to review thousands of pages of FBI material.
"The FBI has done far more damage to finality in this case than McVeigh or his counsel could do," Nigh said.
Matsch told the attorneys he remembered getting a letter from prosecutor Sean Connelly advising that documents in the case had been withheld.
"It's a good thing I was in quiet chambers and not in court because my judicial temperament escaped me when I read it. It was shocking," he said.
In his arguments, Connelly said information in the withheld documents was contained in FBI interview report that had been given to the defense prior to trial.
He also said that a delay in McVeigh's execution would be equivalent to delaying the jury's "reasoned, moral judgment."
One of the newly released documents included information on a potential witness who was news to the defense, Nigh said.
Matsch said: "You also could understand why one could question the reliability of the source."
Nigh replied: "The source had contact with other groups we were investigating at the time." The source was not identified in the courtroom comments, and most of the documents have not been released publicly.
Prior to the start of the hearing, bombing survivor Paul Heath said the outcome would not affect the guilt of McVeigh or convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols.
"It's ironic that McVeigh says he is defending the Constitution while, at the same time, saying, 'I did it, you know I did it, put me to death,'" Heath said. "Now he is worried about the Constitution?"
In a court brief filed Tuesday, McVeigh's attorneys argued they may have been able to identify others who had major roles in the bombing if they had received the disputed 4,400 FBI documents before trial. They also alleged the government is continuing to withhold evidence.
McVeigh, 33, has accused the government of committing a "fraud upon the court" because it turned over the additional FBI documents and 11 CDs in May rather than before his 1997 trial and subsequent murder conviction.
Some of the newly released FBI materials apparently are related to the FBI's huge search for a John Doe No. 2 suspect.
Sketches of a dark, heavyset man were circulated after the bombing but federal officials eventually identified him as an Army private who had no role in the attack.
"We have identified, in the new witness statements, at least 360 names of individuals (not in reference to John Doe 2 sightings) which we have never seen before" prior to the trial, McVeigh attorney Richard Burr wrote in Tuesday's brief.
Connelly has argued that McVeigh confessed to the car bombing in a recent book and said that he alone carried out the 1995 terrorist act in which 168 people died. McVeigh has not identified any documents that could prove his innocence, Connelly argued.
McVeigh's lawyers contend that at least some FBI agents knew of the other possible conspirators but allowed their client to shoulder the blame alone.
"The overt acts alleged against Mr. McVeigh, together with the circumstantial evidence and absence of proof concerning the making of the bomb, created the impressions that Mr. McVeigh was the primary actor bearing full responsibility for the bombing," Burr wrote.
"In this context, any credible evidence that other specific individuals played a major role in the bombing, for example construction of the bomb, would have cast doubt on the overt acts committed by Mr. McVeigh," he said.
If McVeigh's execution is stayed, Burr wrote, it's possible a connection between some of these individuals and McVeigh will be established.
Matsch's ruling could be appealed immediately. A 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals spokesman said a panel could rule in three hours on any challenge.
McVeigh is held at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.
Terry Nichols, 46, is serving a life sentence for involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy in the bombing. His appeal is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.
On the Net:
McVeigh motions: http://www.co.uscourts.gov/dindex.htm
Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov
© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press