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Death Penalty Sought in Oklahoma Blast

By George Lardner Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 21, 1995; Page A14

Government prosecutors, given a green light by Attorney General Janet Reno, served notice in federal court in Oklahoma City yesterday that they will seek the death penalty for the two men charged in the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The truck bombing last April resulted in the deaths of 169 people.

Acting over the protests of defense lawyers who contended she should have disqualified herself, Reno approved seeking the death penalty in a letter to U.S. Attorney Patrick Ryan on Thursday afternoon.

In identical court filings yesterday, Ryan said capital punishment was warranted against both defendants, Timothy James McVeigh and Terry Lynn Nichols, for four of the charges lodged against them: first-degree murder, conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction with death resulting, using an explosive to destroy government property with death resulting and using a weapon of mass destruction with death resulting.

The prosecutors said "aggravating factors" included the maiming, disfigurement and other injuries inflicted on many individuals and the involvement of both defendants in "acts of burglary, robbery and theft to finance and otherwise facilitate" the bombing.

More than 500 people were injured in the attack.

McVeigh and Nichols are scheduled to go on trial May 17 in Lawton, Okla., about 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. McVeigh's lawyer, Stephen Jones, told reporters that Reno and President Clinton both said "they would seek the death penalty before they even knew who the defendants were. We will mount our attack on the obvious prejudgment of the case."

Oklahoma Gov. Frank A. Keating applauded the step. He said in an interview that it was not at all unusual "to see the president and the attorney general express their outrage" when they did.

"This was an enormous national tragedy of titanic proportions," Keating said. "The question is, are these {McVeigh and Nichols} the people who did it? If not, we need to find those who did. . . . But we want whoever did this to be prosecuted, convicted and executed."

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