Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols: Oklahoma Bombing

Pre-Execution News Coverage

McVeigh's Stay Request Denied, June 7, 2001

On June 7, Court TV reported that the judge appointed to the Oklahoma City bombing case, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, refused to delay the execution of Timothy McVeigh on the grounds that documents newly released by the FBI do not change the fact that he is guilty. He issued the ruling after having commented to lawyers earlier that he found it "shocking" that documents had been withheld in the case until last month.

Explaining his ruling he said, "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." He also said in his ruling that, whatever role others may have played, "it is clear Timothy McVeigh committed murder and mayhem as charged. He said he believed 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."

The execution is scheduled for next Monday. McVeigh's attorney, Rob Nigh, said that he would appeal the ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and told reporters, "We are extremely disappointed in the court's ruling today."

Attorney General John Ashcroft called the ruling, "a ruling for justice."

The defense had earlier appealed to Matsch on the grounds that the documents revealed by the FBI last month could have helped their client's case but the prosecution had urged the judge not to delay the execution any further. Nigh had originally asked for the stay to allow him and his team time to review thousands of pages of FBI material.

According to the defense, one such document alluded to a potential witness that was previously unknown to them. In answer Matsch said: "You also could understand one could question the reliability of the source." The alleged witness was not identified during the proceedings.

Bombing survivor Paul Heath, interviewed outside the courtroom, said the outcome would not affect the guilt of McVeigh or his convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols. He stated, "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 another court brief filed the previous week, 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 still withholding evidence. The materials allegedly refer to the FBI's search for a second suspect referred to as "John Doe No. 2." Nigh argued that FBI agents knew of other conspirators but allowed McVeigh to "shoulder the blame alone."

Also on June 7, CNN Online reported that Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating "applauded" Wednesday's decision. "It was the right ruling, and for the families and for Oklahoma," he said. "Now there's finality, now the ultimate punishment will be imposed."

McVeigh Concedes Defeat, June 8, 2001

On June 8, Court TV reported that any hopes convicted Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh had of delaying his execution were dashed when he learned that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his lawyers had "utterly failed to demonstrate substantial grounds." The court also refused to reopen McVeigh's appeal, stating, "our complete agreement with McVeigh's candid concession in his district court filings that the newly produced materials do not satisfy the standard."

Following the decision, McVeigh, who could have petitioned the full appeals court or taken his case directly to the Supreme Court, decided to end the process and was now "prepared to die." His attorney, Rob Nigh said McVeigh has also declined to ask President Bush for clemency.

In a statement issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft, he described the ruling as "a ruling in favor of justice. Timothy McVeigh is responsible for the brutal murder of 168 people, including 19 children, and he will now be brought to justice."

Commenting on his client's decision, Nigh said, "He has family and friends that he must say his goodbyes to. The kind of introspection and psychological preparation he has to go through only he can know and other people in his position can know," Nigh said.

Court TV and BBC Online also carried a report describing how relatives of the Oklahoma bombing victims welcomed the news that McVeigh has decided not to continue the appeals process. Paul Howell, whose daughter died in the bombing, said, "It's kind of like a burden lifted off my shoulders. I'm going to start preparing myself mentally for it now."

Judge Stays Taping of McVeigh Execution, June 9, 2001

Court TV has reported that following a ruling by federal judge, Maurice B. Cohill to allow the videotaping of Timothy McVeigh's execution, a higher court has issued a stay order pending further consideration.

The ruling was stayed by Judge Joseph Weis Jr. of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals so a panel of three Philadelphia circuit judges could consider it on either Friday or Saturday.

The decision is seen as a victory for the U.S. Justice Department as they have objected to the taping because of a federal regulation that prohibits photographic, visual or audio recording of executions.

Interviewed by CNN, Attorney General John Ashcroft defended the regulation stating: "it is the right policy and we will do everything in our power to sustain that regulation."

A defense attorney in the Pennsylvania case had earlier contacted McVeigh lawyer Chris Tritico to ask if McVeigh would mind if his execution was videotaped. He later told CNN: "I discussed it with my client. He said he would not oppose the videotaping or the use of it in that case."

McVeigh Doesn't Want to Die, June 10, 2001

According to a report by CourtTV, Timothy McVeigh decided against any further appeals because he felt sure the U.S. Supreme Court would turn him down. A McVeigh attorney said McVeigh doesn't want to die but has accepted his fate.

McVeigh is due to be moved to a holding cell close to the death chamber 24 hours before he is to be put to death. McVeigh's attorneys expect him to be moved sometime on Saturday.

McVeigh is expected to spend his time in the holding cell preparing himself for his execution. ''I think that he wants to spend his last few days alone,'' his attorney said.

McVeigh allegedly told a friend that he has no remorse about the actual bombing. He also stated that, had he known a day care center was in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, he would have chosen a different target even though he had previously described the children as ''collateral damage'' in a quote for a book on the subject in which he also admitted his guilt and stated that he had acted alone.

The friend, Bob Papovich told reporters, ''I do believe he has remorse about the innocent people and particularly the children that died in the bombing.'' Papovich has known McVeigh for some time and lives close to the farm in Michigan where co-conspirator Terry Nichols' lived.

Papovich, who has corresponded with McVeigh since he's been in prison said, ''Tim has no fear whatsoever. He's been prepared for this for sometime. He's very businesslike.''

McVeigh in Good Spirits in Final Hours, June 11, 2001

In a Court TV report on June 11, Timothy McVeigh is described as confronting death in good spirits. He is also reportedly convinced that he is the "victor" in his personal war against the government. McVeigh still maintains he planted the bomb to "teach the government a lesson," in retaliation for federal raids at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. In an excerpt from letters sent to The Buffalo News, McVeigh called the bombing "a legit tactic."

In an isolation cell near the death chamber, McVeigh is spending his last hours calling his family and writing letters. According to prison officials, McVeigh was cooperative with prison staff during the move to the cell and settled in without incident.

Lou Michel, co-author of "American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & The Oklahoma City Bombing," told ABC's This Week program, "He once told me that in the crudest of terms, it's 168 to one, he feels he is the victor." Michel, who will be one of the witnesses at McVeigh's execution added, "He has made his point, and he's now going on to whatever is the next step."

Nathan Chambers, an attorney who talked with McVeigh on Saturday, appeared on the same show and described his client as being in "very good spirits. He was upbeat. ...He is at peace with the decision he's made,"

Also on June 11, The Oklahoman Online reported that McVeigh had written letters to his hometown paper expressing regret that he hadn't carried out a series of assassinations against police and government officials instead.

He also insisted that only Terry Nichols, Michael and Lori Fortier and himself were the only ones who had any prior knowledge of the blast and that he alone had "all the pieces of the puzzle."

He wrote, "For those die-hard conspiracy theorists who will refuse to believe this, I turn the tables and say: Show me where I needed anyone else," he wrote. "Financing? Logistics? Specialized tech skills? Brainpower? Strategy? ...Show me where I needed a dark, mysterious 'Mr. X!"

Timothy McVeigh Executed, June 12, 2001

On June 12, Court TV reported that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at 8:14 a.m. ET Monday.

McVeigh made no final statement, but gave prison officials a handwritten copy of a nineteenth century poem which ends, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

Shari Sawyer, whose mother died in the bombing was among the 232 survivors and family members who watched the execution on a closed-circuit television feed in Oklahoma City. "I think he got what he wanted," she said. Her brother, Jay Sawyer added, "Without saying a word, he got the final word."

According to the report, McVeigh's execution was the first lethal injection by the U.S. government ever, and the first federal execution in 38 years.

Over 1400 journalists gathered outside the federal prison in Indiana but less than 200 protesters attended.

McVeigh's execution was carried out according to the fifty-page U.S. Bureau of Prison's protocol which began with three simple words from the U.S. Marshall: "We are ready." McVeigh was then injected in the right leg with a mixture of sodium thiopental, to sedate him, pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant that collapses the diaphragm and lungs; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

The officially sanctioned witnesses included victims' representatives, news media members and McVeigh's personal witnesses — Rob Nigh, defense attorney Nathan Chambers, former defense team member Cate McCauley and Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel, who co-wrote a recent book on the bomber.

One of the witnesses, Larry Whicher, whose brother, Alan, 40, an agent with the U.S. Secret Service, was a victim of the bombing, described McVeigh as having, "A totally expressionless, blank stare. He had a look of defiance, and that if he could, he'd do it all over again."

The report detailed how McVeigh, wearing a white T-shirt, khaki pants and slip-on sneakers, looked pale as he awaited death. His hair was cropped short. A white sheet was pulled up tightly to his chest as he lay on the gurney.

When the first drug was administered, he let out a couple of deep breaths, then a fluttery breath. His head moved back, his gaze fixed on the ceiling, and his eyes were glassy.

Following the execution, defense attorney Robert Nigh, told reporters, "We killed Bill and Mickey McVeigh's son this morning. If there is anything good that can come from the execution of Tim McVeigh, it may be to help us realize sooner that we simply cannot do this anymore. I am firmly convinced that it is not a question of if we will stop; it is simply a question of when."

McVeigh's body is to be released to a representative of his family and, according to reports, is to be cremated in Terre Haute. Following the cremation his ashes will be scattered in an undisclosed location picked by McVeigh before the execution.

 

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