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Profile: Beth Wilkinson
Beth Wilkinson was a participant or observer in the following events:
Stephen Jones, the lead defense lawyer for indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995), asks the court to provide him with classified documents from the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Security Agency. The documents concern terrorist groups in Iraq, Iran, the Sudan, Great Britain, and Germany. In a sealed document not given to the prosecution, Jones tells Judge Richard P. Matsch that he has evidence from several confidential sources that the bombing was financed and carried out by a foreign terrorist group, and he wants the documents to prove that allegation. Prosecution member Beth Wilkinson calls the defense request “speculative and over-broad.” Federal officials say they do not believe the files will help the defense exonerate either McVeigh or his co-conspirator Terry Nichols, Wilkinson says, and adds that after April 21, 1995, when McVeigh was arrested (see April 21, 1995), the intelligence agencies had no role in the criminal investigation. “It is the government’s position that the bomb cost the defendants less than $1,000 to put together,” Wilkinson says. “They didn’t need a foreign government to finance the bombing.” Wilkinson says that the prosecution has already given Jones and Nichols’s lawyers an enormous amount of documents, including videotapes, photographs, laboratory reports, telephone and hotel records, and witness statements. Wilkinson says Jones’s attempts to get classified information are “effort[s] to investigate where the government stopped its investigation” of a possible overseas connection to the bombing. If the government were to allow Jones to review all its unrelated files, she says, “we would be here for years.” Matsch says he will read the request, but gives no indication as to how he will rule. Jones has also asked for documentation of accusations made by FBI forensic specialist Frederic Whitehurst, who has said that FBI scientists have not always handled evidence properly (see January 27, 1997). A Justice Department memo indicates that one of the FBI explosive experts who handled evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing case has been criticized by Whitehurst. Wilkinson says the government will turn over all pertinent information about Whitehurst’s complaints to the defense. [New York Times, 4/10/1996] Matsch will rule against the request. [Reuters, 4/30/1996]
The sister of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), Jennifer McVeigh, reluctantly testifies for the prosecution under a grant of immunity. Her brother nods at her when she enters the courtroom. She tells jurors that her brother ranted against federal agents as “fascist tyrants,” and told her he intended to move from “the propaganda stage” to “the action stage” in the months before the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building (see Mid-December 1994). She describes a November 1994 visit from her brother (see November 1994), in which he showed her a videotape about the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He was very angry,” she testifies. “He thought the government murdered the people there, basically, gassed and burned them.” Her brother held the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the FBI responsible: “I think he felt someone should be held accountable,” she says. During his visit, she says McVeigh told her he felt it necessary to do more than hand out pamphlets attacking the government. “He was not in the propaganda stage,” she says he told her. “He was now in the action stage.” He never explained what he meant by this, she says. She also reads aloud a letter he wrote to the American Legion on her word processor, in which he accused the government of drawing “first blood” in its “war” against its citizens, and said only militia groups could protect the citizenry from the government. And, after being prompted by prosecutors, she recalls driving with her brother when “Tim brought up a time when he was traveling with explosives and nearly got into an accident” (see December 18, 1994). They had been “talking about traffic jokes, accident jokes.” She recalls him talking about driving in another car with “up to 1,000 pounds” of explosives. “They were going down a hill. There was a traffic light. They couldn’t stop in time.” Her brother did not run into another car. Asked why she had not pressed her brother for more details, she replies, “I don’t think I wanted to know.” She did not see her brother again after that visit, but kept in touch with him by letters and telephone calls. He told her he had a network of friends around the country, whom she only knows by their first names: Terry (Nichols), Mike (Michael Fortier—see May 12-13, 1997), and Lori (Fortier—see April 29-30, 1997). Her brother wrote her a letter in early 1995 telling her to get in touch with the Fortiers “in case of alert.… Lori is trustworthy. Let them know who you are and why you called.” He told her not to use their home phone, as it was likely the government would be surveilling it. She testifies that after her brother left, she found another document on her computer entitled “ATF—Read,” which prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says reads as if it were meant for the BATF (see November 1994). Jennifer McVeigh testifies that she called her brother and asked him what to do with the file, and he advised her to “just leave it there.” Prosecution lawyer Beth Wilkinson reads the letter aloud. It told the BATF that its agents “will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous acts against the Constitution and the United States,” and ended: “Remember the Nuremberg trials, war trials.… Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” In March and April 1995, she says her brother sent her two letters, the first of which she later burned as he instructed her to in the letter. The first letter told her, “Something big is going to happen in the month of the bull,” indicating April, and advised her to stay on her “vacation longer” (Jennifer planned to go to Pensacola, Florida, for a two-week vacation beginning April 8). The second letter, dated March 25, 1995, told her not to write him after April 1, “even if it’s an emergency,” and advised her to “watch what you say.” He then sent her a third mailing with a short note and three short clippings from the racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978 and April 15, 1995). On April 7, the day before she went on vacation, she says she divided her brother’s belongings into two boxes, putting one into her closet and giving the other to a friend for safekeeping. After hearing of his arrest on August 21 (see April 21, 1995), she burned the Turner clippings. “I was scared,” she explains. “I heard Tim’s name announced, and I figured [the FBI would] come around sooner or later.” The FBI searched her truck and the house in Florida where she vacationed, and were waiting for her when she flew into the Buffalo, New York, airport (see April 21-23, 1995). She says she was questioned eight to nine hours a day for “eight days straight.” Agents showed her a timeline of events culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing, and threatened to charge her with an array of crimes related to her brother’s actions and her own in concealing or destroying evidence. She identifies her brother’s handwriting on an order for a book on how to make explosives, and on a business card for Paulsen’s Military Supplies where he apparently had made notations about buying TNT (see April 21, 1995). She also identifies his handwriting on the back of a copy of the Declaration of Independence found in his car after the bombing (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). It read, “Obey the Constitution of the United States, and we won’t shoot you.” Under cross-examination by her brother’s lawyers, she breaks down in tears, explaining that she agreed to testify because FBI agents “told me he was guilty [and] was going to fry.” She admits to destroying papers she thought might incriminate him, lying to FBI investigators in her first sworn statement, and resisting her parents’ claims to cooperate with the government. She says she began cooperating truthfully after FBI agents threatened to charge her with treason and other crimes that carry the death penalty. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/5/1997; New York Times, 5/6/1997; New York Times, 5/7/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 284-]
Entity Tags: Lori Fortier, Beth Wilkinson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joseph H. Hartzler, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The lawyers present their closing arguments in the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the accused Oklahoma City bomber (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh 'a Traitor' Who 'Deserves to Die' - Federal prosecutor Larry Mackey delivers a meticulous recap of the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997), portraying McVeigh as a “domestic terrorist” guilty of “a crime of ghastly proportions.… Timothy McVeigh is a domestic terrorist [who was] motivated by hatred of the government.… This is not a prosecution of Tim McVeigh for his political beliefs. This is a prosecution of Tim McVeigh because of what he did: He committed murder. This is a murder case.” Mackey asks the jurors: “Who could do such a thing? Who could do such a thing? Based on the evidence, the answer is clear: Timothy McVeigh did it.” Referring to McVeigh’s well-documented hatred of the government and McVeigh’s own writings, Mackey concludes: “The law enforcement officers who died were not treasonous officials… or ‘cowardice bastards.’ The credit union employees who disappeared were not tyrants whose blood had to be spilled. And certainly the 19 children who died were not the storm troopers McVeigh said must die because of their association with the evil empire. In fact, they were bosses and secretaries, they were blacks and whites, they were mothers, daughters, fathers and sons. They were a community. So who are the real patriots and who is the traitor?” Concluding the prosecution’s close, attorney Beth Wilkinson points at McVeigh and says to the jury: “Look into the eyes of a coward and tell him you will have courage. Tell him you will speak with one unified voice as the moral conscience of the community and tell him he is no patriot. He is a traitor and he deserves to die.” [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/29/1997; Washington Post, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997]
McVeigh 'Not a Demon, Though Surely His Act Was Demonic' - For the defense, attorneys Stephen Jones and Robert Nigh Jr. portray McVeigh as the innocent victim of an overzealous investigation and the treachery of his friends (see May 28, 1997). Jones and Nigh say that McVeigh was victimized by a rush to judgment led by a federal government desperate to solve the worst act of terrorism on US soil, and by a public overwhelmed by sympathy for the victims of the bombing. “The emotion is a twin emotion,” Jones says. “On one hand what has been evoked has been sympathy for the victims, and on the other hand repugnance” for McVeigh’s far-right political philosophy. “The evidence demonstrates tragically that what law enforcement did was terribly, terribly wrong,” Nigh adds. “Instead of an objective investigation of the case, the federal law enforcement officials involved decided the case and then jammed the evidence and witnesses to fit the decision.” Jones insists: “There’s no witness who saw Tim McVeigh in a Ryder truck (see May 23, 1997). There’s no witness that saw Tim McVeigh build a bomb. [The prosecution’s case is built of] speculation, inference piled on inference, trying to put an 11 and a half size foot in an eight and a half size shoe.” The defense also insists that evidence presented against their client was tainted by sloppy FBI lab technicians (see January 27, 1997), and that witness testimonies were unreliable and in some cases fabricated (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997). Defense lawyer Christopher L. Tritico calls the FBI laboratory that handled the case “a ship without a rudder, without a sail, without a captain, adrift, making judgment calls that affect the rest of people’s lives.” In a statement that seemingly concedes McVeigh’s guilt, Jones says of McVeigh, “[H]e is not a demon though surely his act was demonic.” He asks that McVeigh be spared so that some day the full story might come out, and so that the political alienation he personifies would not be rekindled by his execution. [Washington Post, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997]
James Blassengill and his wife, Willie, who lost six family members in the bombing, comfort one another after the verdict. [Source: AP / Washington Post]The jury in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) unanimously decides that McVeigh should be sentenced to death by lethal injection. The verdict is written in heavy black ink by jury foreman James Osgood, a single word: “Death.”
Statements by Prosecution and Defense - The prosecution puts an array of survivors and family members of the victims on the stand to tell their harrowing stories, and shows videotapes of some of the surviving children battling grave injuries in the months after the bombing. The defense counters with testimonials from some of McVeigh’s former Army friends (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), and a presentation by McVeigh’s divorced parents, Bill McVeigh and Mildred Frazer; the father introduces a 15-minute videotape of McVeigh as a child and concludes simply, “I love Tim.” The defense emphasizes McVeigh’s far-right political views, insisting that his misguided belief that the government intended to impose tyranny on its citizens was fueled by the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Branch Davidian (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) incidents, and drove McVeigh to mount his own strike against a government facility. However, defense lawyer Richard Burr tells the jury, “He is just like any of us.” The defense brings in soldiers who served with McVeigh in the Army to testify about McVeigh’s exemplary service, but their statements are quickly neutralized when prosecutors remind them that they are all taught as their first rule of duty “never to kill noncombatants, including women and children.” Another damning moment comes when prosecutor Beth Wilkinson elicits testimony that shows McVeigh killed more people in the bombing than US forces lost during Desert Storm—168 to 137. Jones pleads for a life sentence without parole. At no time do defense lawyers say that McVeigh feels any remorse towards the lives he took.
Unanimous Verdict - The jury takes about 11 hours over two days to reach its verdict. The jury unanimously finds that at least seven “aggravating circumstances” were associated with McVeigh’s crimes, including his intention to kill, his premeditation and planning, that he created a grave risk to others with reckless disregard for their lives, that he committed offenses against federal law enforcement officials, and that he created severe losses for the victims’ families. They are split in consideration of “mitigating factors” proposed by the defense. Only two find McVeigh to be a “reliable and dependable person”; only four say he had “done good deeds and helped others” during his life; none see him as a “good and loyal friend”; and none agree with the proposition that he “believed deeply in the ideals upon which the United States was founded.” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “This is not a day of great joy for the prosecution team. We’re pleased that the system worked and justice prevailed. But the verdict doesn’t diminish the great sadness that occurred in Oklahoma City two years ago. Our only hope is that the verdict will go some way toward preventing such a terrible, drastic crime from ever occurring again.” Juror Tonya Stedman says that the jury wrestled with the idea of taking McVeigh’s life for his crimes: “It was difficult because we’re talking about a life. Yes, 168 died as a result of it, but this is another life to consider. This was a big decision. I feel confident in the decision we made.” Most relatives of the bombing victims echo the sentiments expressed by Charles Tomlin, who lost a son in the explosion: “I could see the strain on them [the jurors]. You know it was a hard decision to make to put a man to death, but I’m glad they did.” However, some agree with James Kreymborg, who lost his wife and daughter in the blast. Kreymborg says he “really did not want the death penalty” because “I’ve had enough death.” Mike Lenz, whose pregnant wife died in the blast, says: “It’s not going to bring back my wife and lessen my loss. My reason for believing or wanting to put McVeigh to death is it stops. It stops here. He can’t reach out and try to recruit anybody else to his cause.” Marsha Kight, who lost her daughter in the explosion, says she would have preferred a life sentence in prison: “There is a lot of pain in living—death is pretty easy.” Lead defense attorney Stephen Jones acknowledges respect for the jury’s decision, and adds: “We ask that the barriers and intolerance that have divided us may crumble and suspicions disappear and hatred cease. And our divisions and intolerance being healed, we may live together in justice and peace. God save the United States of America. God save this honorable court.” President Clinton had publicly called for the death sentence after the bombing (see April 23, 1995), but avoids directly commenting on the jury’s decision, citing the impending trial of fellow bombing suspect Terry Nichols (see November 3, 1997). Instead, Clinton says: “This investigation and trial have confirmed our country’s faith in its justice system. To the victims and their families, I know that your healing can be measured only one day at a time. The prayers and support of your fellow Americans will be with you every one of those days.” McVeigh faces 160 murder charges under Oklahoma state law. [New York Times, 6/4/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 297-300, 308, 313-315; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] McVeigh shows no emotion when the sentence is read. When he is escorted out of the courtroom, he flashes a peace sign to the jury, then turns to his parents and sister in the front row, and mouths, “It’s okay.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 315]
McVeigh Will Be Incarcerated in Colorado 'Supermax' Facility - McVeigh will be held in the same “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). In a letter to the authors of McVeigh’s authorized biography, American Terrorist, Kaczynski will later say he “like[s]” McVeigh, describing him as “an adventurer by nature” who, at the same time, is “very intelligent” and expressed ideas that “seemed rational and sensible.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] A person who later speaks to McVeigh in prison will call him “the scariest man in the world” because he is so quiet and nondescript. “There’s nothing alarming about him—nothing,” the person will say. “He’s respectful of his elders, he’s polite. When he expresses political views, for most of what he says, Rush Limbaugh is scarier. That’s what’s incredibly frightening. If he is what he appears to be, there must be other people out there like him. You look at him and you think: This isn’t the end of something; this is the beginning of something.” [Nicole Nichols, 2003] McVeigh is one of only 13 people to be sentenced to death under federal law. It has been 34 years since any prisoner sentenced to death under federal law was executed. [New York Times, 6/4/1997] He will speak briefly and obscurely on his own behalf when Judge Richard Matsch formally sentences him to death (see August 14, 1997).
Entity Tags: Joseph H. Hartzler, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Tonya Stedman, James Kreymborg, Charles Tomlin, James Osgood, Beth Wilkinson, Timothy James McVeigh, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Marsha Kight, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Mildred (“Mickey”) Frazer, Mike Lenz, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Richard Burr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) links Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), to a rifle stolen from an Arkansas gun dealer, Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). Prosecutors have alleged that Nichols and McVeigh, who planned the robbery, used the proceeds from the robbery to finance the bombing. The link between Nichols and the robbery is made in part by Karen Anderson, Moore’s longtime girlfriend, who says the ornate, custom-made .308-caliber rifle found in Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) was hers. She says when prosecutors first showed her the rifle, she exclaimed: “It’s my baby!… It was made for me.” Anderson says she has been Moore’s girlfriend for over 20 years, and lives in what is apparently an open relationship with Moore and his wife Carol. Prosecutors say Nichols donned a ski mask and robbed Moore’s gun dealership of more than $60,000 in guns, precious jewels, gold, silver, cash, and other items. Anderson says she recognized several other weapons seized by FBI agents from Nichols’s home. Of one, a shotgun, she says: “I shot a pair of blue jeans with this a couple of times. Jeans with holes cost $100. I figured if you shot them yourself, you could save about $90.” Anderson’s colorful testimony and flamboyant gestures trigger several waves of laughter in the courtroom, including one instance where she apologizes for inadvertently waving a submachine gun at Judge Richard P. Matsch, saying, “I just pointed it at the judge again!” Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson quips in response, “No matter how mad he makes you, don’t fire it.” Anderson says she has a list of the serial numbers of many of the stolen guns; Moore previously told investigators his list of the serial numbers disappeared the day of the robbery. Anderson also discusses her friendship with McVeigh, and says she and Moore were so impressed with McVeigh’s warnings about a United Nations plot to take over the country that they visited several military bases in an unsuccessful search for Russian vehicles. After Anderson testifies, Moore testifies, telling the jury how he was robbed by a man who carried a shotgun, wore a black ski mask, and bound him with duct tape before purloining items from his farm, from which he runs his dealership. He says he was alone on his farm the morning of the robbery, and had just gone outside to feed the animals when he heard a voice say, “Lay on the ground.” He turned and saw “a horrible picture, a man dressed with camouflage, with a black ski mask, carrying a pistol-grip shotgun aimed right at my face.” Attached to the shotgun was a garrote wire that he says could “cut your windpipe and jugular vein.” The robber was a white man wearing what he thinks were Israeli combat boots, Vietnam-era camouflage pants and shirt, and military gloves. Moore says he could see a short beard and suntanned skin through the mouth opening in the mask. He identifies a number of weapons shown to him by prosecution lawyers as being among those stolen from his dealership. Defense lawyer Michael Tigar accuses Moore of conspiring with McVeigh to commit insurance fraud. Tigar asks Moore: “Isn’t it a fact you were not robbed? Isn’t it a fact that you and Mr. McVeigh worked out a plan to get these guns out on the market, and you would collect whatever you could from the insurance company?” Moore angrily responds, “I deny that.” He admits to seeking an insurance settlement even though he had no serial numbers for the stolen weaponry, nor an accurate accounting of the weapons he said had been stolen. He also acknowledges telling investigators differing accounts of the robbery, and engaging in friendly letter exchanges with McVeigh after the robbery, including one letter written by Moore in the days before the bombing that complained of the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) and stated, “Plan is to bring the country down and have a few more things happen, then offer the 90 percent a solution (Better Red than Dead).” He also admits to using the alias “Bob Miller” on the gun-show circuit, and admits to previously telling lawyers that he suspected law enforcement agents or militia members of robbing him. However, he says, he also suspected McVeigh of setting him up, and says that the letters were designed to persuade McVeigh to come back to Arkansas so he could question him about the robbery. [New York Times, 11/18/1997; New York Times, 11/19/1997]
The prosecution and defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) give their closing statements.
Prosecution: Nichols an Eager Participant - Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson tells the jury that even though Nichols was at home on the day of the bombing, he was an eager participant in the bomb plot, and shares the violent anti-government views of his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Like McVeigh, she says, Nichols wanted to strike back at the federal government for its role in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He intended death, destruction, and chaos in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995,” she says. His favorite quote is from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” However, “Thomas Jefferson never bombed a day care center.” Nichols was involved in the plot from its inception in September 1994, when he left his job on a Kansas ranch “to begin gathering bomb components” (see September 13, 1994 and September 23, 1994), Wilkinson says. Nichols used aliases, such as “Mike Havens,” to purchase several tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a key component in the bomb (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). He took part in the robbery of a quarry to secure explosives and explosive components (see October 3, 1994), and took part in the purchase of three barrels of nitromethane racing fuel from a Texas dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Nichols also robbed an Arkansas gun dealer to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), a fact confirmed by testimony given by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see November 12-13, 1997) and by the FBI finding items taken in that robbery in Nichols’s possession (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols and McVeigh had assembled most of what they needed by November 1994, she says, when Nichols went to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995); after that point, she says, “all they had to do was wait.” When Nichols returned from his trip, they resumed their activities, using sales of guns and ammonium nitrate at gun shows to give themselves alibis. In contrast to a claim made in the opening statement by Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, she says Nichols was not building a life, “he was building a bomb, and he was building an alibi.” Wilkinson says that witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with an unidentified person, and not Nichols, in the days before the bombing (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), were just plain wrong. Referring to the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2,” she says: “As a result of the media frenzy, sightings of John Doe 2 were about as common and credible as sightings of Elvis. No one is telling you Tim McVeigh was never with anyone else. The issue here is, who is on trial? John Doe 2 is not on trial. Tim McVeigh is not on trial. This is the trial of Terry Nichols.” Concluding the prosecution’s close, lead prosecutor Larry Mackey tells the jury, “It’s finally time—it’s time for justice” in what he calls “America’s most horrific crime.”
Defense: Nichols Victimized by Government - Tigar tells the jury that Nichols is the victim of a farrago of errors and circumstance; the evidence against him, Tigar says, is comprised of dishonest witnesses, sloppy investigation, and misleading circumstantial evidence. “It’s kind of like a stick on the ground, as Sherlock Holmes told Watson,” Tigar says. “If you stand here and look, it seems to point there. But if you walk around to the other side, it points in the opposite direction.” A fellow defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, attacks the government’s case, saying, “Anything that differs from the government’s theory, they discount, put aside, ridicule.” The witnesses who saw other men in McVeigh’s company during key moments in the bomb construction timeline were neither wrong nor mistaken, he says. Neither Tigar nor Woods refer at any length to the testimony of Nichols’s wife Marife, which is largely viewed as damaging to their client (see December 10-11, 1997). Tigar continues his previous attack on Fortier, saying: “Michael Fortier is the only witness who says he ever heard anyone say they wanted to bomb the Murrah Building. His testimony was bought and paid for, not with money but with a coin that only the government has the ability to print and hand out, and that is immunity from punishment.” Tigar says that Fortier was far more of a conspirator in the McVeigh plot than Nichols, and accuses the government of turning Fortier from a co-conspirator into a witness. Woods accuses the FBI of manipulating and fabricating witness testimony. Tigar concludes tearfully: “One hundred sixty-eight people died in Oklahoma City. We have never denied the reality of that.” But this is a nation that promises equal justice under law, he says, “rich or poor, neighbor or stranger, tax protester or not, someone who’s different from us, or not.… Members of the jury, I don’t envy you the job that you have,” he says, placing his hand on Nichols’s shoulders. “But I tell you, this is my brother. He’s in your hands.” [New York Times, 12/16/1997; New York Times, 12/17/1997]
One of the documents turned over to the lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) is a report about a purported eyewitness to the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) whose statements were attacked during McVeigh’s trial. Eyewitness Morris John Kuper Jr. called the FBI two days after the bombing to say that an hour before the bombing, he saw a man resembling McVeigh walking in the company of another man near the Murrah Federal Building. He told agents that he saw both men get into an old, light-colored car similar to the Mercury Marquis McVeigh was arrested in later that morning (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). In court, Kuper described the other man as being similar to a sketch of the suspected, never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Kuper also testified that he told agents they should check security cameras at two nearby buildings to see if they caught anything, but, Kuper told the court, “they took my name and phone number and never contacted me again.” FBI documents show that he contacted the FBI via email in October 1995, not on April 21 as he claimed; US Attorney Patrick Ryan challenged Kuper’s credibility in court over the discrepancy in dates. The newly discovered document details Kuper’s conversation with agents on April 21. Ryan says now that he never knew the document existed: “I certainly would never intentionally tell the jury someone had not come forward for six months if I knew they had come forward a couple of days after the bombing.” Ryan says that he still believes Kuper and other defense witnesses who claimed to have seen others accompanying McVeigh before the bombing were “fairly unreliable. The problem with any of these witnesses, even if some were right, you didn’t know which were the right ones and which were the wrong ones.” At the time, fellow prosecutor Beth Wilkinson compared the “John Doe No. 2” accounts to “Elvis sightings.” McVeigh has also said that “John Doe No. 2” does not exist. [New York Times, 5/27/2001]
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