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Profile: Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones was a participant or observer in the following events:
The court-appointed lawyers for suspected Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, public defender Susan Otto and private attorney John Coyle (see April 21, 1995), ask to be taken off the case. Both Otto and Coyle say they knew people killed in the blast (including Coyle’s law partner Gloyd McCoy) and cannot be objective in defending McVeigh. Coyle’s family has been threatened by people who apparently do not want Coyle to defend McVeigh. “Someone in as much trouble as Mr. McVeigh is entitled to 100 percent commitment from his lawyer,” Coyle says. “I personally witnessed the carnage. I had a friend die in the explosion.” Witnessing the aftermath of the blast “call[s] me to question whether or not I could give 100 percent. I just don’t see how any lawyer in Oklahoma City can be objective about anything in this case.” Before asking to withdraw, Otto and Coyle file a motion to transfer the case out of Oklahoma (see April 22, 1995); Coyle says the motion is “very important for this young man, if he is to get a fair trial.” The motions are filed in Federal District Court in Oklahoma City, a building that was damaged in the bombing and has been closed until today, when it is opened solely to allow McVeigh’s lawyers to file their motions. Coyle says McVeigh “understands” his reasons for withdrawing. Coyle lost a friend and fellow lawyer, Mike Weaver, in the blast, and himself was in a county courtroom that was damaged by a slab of falling rock. Otto’s office was damaged, its windows blown out, and her car was crushed in a parking lot. Coyle says he will suggest replacements for himself and Otto. [New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/24/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 223-224; Indianapolis Star, 2003] On May 8, attorney Stephen Jones will be assigned to represent McVeigh (see May 8, 1995). [Indianapolis Star, 2003]
Renowned defense lawyer Roy Black, who has refused to defend Timothy McVeigh. [Source: USLaw (.com)]With accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s two court-appointed lawyers, John Coyle and Susan Otto, asking to be removed from the case (see April 24, 1995 and April 27, 1995), it is unclear who will step up to represent McVeigh. Oklahoma defense lawyer Allen Smallwood tells a reporter: “I’ve said to many people, the acid test of a criminal defense lawyer is could you represent Hitler or Adolph Eichmann? And, yes, I could have. But the publicity and the downside to my life personally would be far, far greater in representing McVeigh than Hitler.” McVeigh is widely regarded as a pariah, and many lawyers fear that to associate themselves with his case would do them irreparable personal and professional harm. Officials at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers say they are confident he will have the best defense possible. America has a long tradition of providing expensive and talented lawyers to represent even the most reviled and unpopular clients, going back to 1770, when future president John Adams represented British soldiers accused of murdering five colonists. If new lawyers are appointed, as seems likely, they will be chosen by the Defender Services Division of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in Washington. Indications are that several lawyers have already been contacted about the case or expressed an interest in it and that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is sounding out possible volunteers in case its help is sought. Oklahoma City defense lawyer Robert A. Manchester says bluntly: “The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution says everybody has a right to counsel. That doesn’t mean they have a right to me.” An American Bar Association ethics rule allows lawyers to turn down appointments if the client is “so repugnant to the lawyer as to impair the lawyer-client relationship.” A number of prominent defense lawyers have already said they would not defend McVeigh. Roy Black, the Florida lawyer who defended William K. Smith, a Kennedy family cousin, on rape charges, has refused, saying: “I find I do the best job in cases where I’m really interested in what I’m doing, and believe in the people and have enthusiasm for it. If no other lawyer was available to take the case, I think I would have the obligation to take it. I don’t think that’s the situation here.” White-collar defense lawyer Carl Rauh says he would not defend accused bombers such as McVeigh. Jack Zimmerman, who defended Branch Davidian Steve Schneider (see March 13, 1993), says he would not defend a client accused of treason unless he was personally convinced of the client’s innocence. Zimmerman’s colleague Richard DeGuerin, who defended Branch Davidian leader David Koresh (see March 13, 1993 and March 29-31, 1993), notes: “You have to understand that the information known about this case is what’s being fed to the public by the authorities. We found out in Waco the public was not being fed the truth.” Lawyers William Kunstler and Ronald Kuby, who have made their reputations defending high-profile, unpopular clients, say they only take clients from the political left or members of minorities whom they feel can be made to represent social issues. “We don’t represent right-wing murderers,” Kuby says. “If I wanted to represent right-wing murderers, I’d become a corporate lawyer.” Kuby says he does not believe that anyone from the American left would have committed such a violent crime. And Manchester notes the difficulty any lawyer will face in becoming involved in such a trial. “My estimate is that whoever gets into the case is going to be faced with 70- to 90-hour weeks solid for six to eight months at $40 an hour for out-of-court time,” he says. “You’re starting two leagues behind the government, and you’ll run all the way until the final day of trial to try and catch up.” Los Angeles defense lawyer Harland Braun, who earlier in his career prosecuted five members of the notorious Manson Family, says: “The government had better make sure they have good cases that are well documented. Otherwise, you’re not only going to create martyrs, but you’re going to create perpetual questions like the JFK thing: Did this guy really do it or was he part of a plot? So you’d better know what you’re doing.” [New York Times, 4/28/1995] McVeigh’s lead lawyer will be Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995).
Entity Tags: Harland Braun, Timothy James McVeigh, William Kunstler, Allen Smallwood, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Carl Rauh, Stephen Jones, Susan Otto, Ronald Kuby, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, John Coyle, Jack Zimmerman, Roy Black, Robert A. Manchester, American Bar Association, Richard DeGuerin
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Stephen Jones. [Source: Associated Press]Attorney Stephen Jones is named by the court as the lead defender of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995). He agrees to work for a taxpayer-funded rate of $125 an hour, considerably less than his usual fee. Jones, who primarily represents large oil and insurance firms, is a Republican activist who failed to unseat Senator David Boren (D-OK) in 1990 and has represented a number of unpopular clients. He is joined by another prominent defense attorney, Robert Nigh Jr., a lawyer recommended to the case by Jones before he himself was chosen to represent McVeigh. Jones discussed the request from Judge David L. Russell with, among others, Governor Frank Keating (R-OK); Jones has done legal work for Keating in the past, and wished to ensure that his representation of McVeigh would not damage Keating’s reputation. Jones eventually accepted Russell’s request; when he accepted, Russell quipped, “I hope I haven’t signed your death warrant.” Jones replied, “That makes two of us.” To the media, Jones says: “My role is as old as the Constitution. Whether I perform professionally will be determined by how I conduct myself and whether my client is satisfied.… I did not seek or request the appointment or even encourage it in any way. I have been drafted. However, I will do my duty.… I will seek, for my part, to avoid the circus atmosphere that has prevailed in certain other well-known jurisdictional proceedings, which have included the self-promotion and self-aggrandizement of some individuals. I am a small-town county-seat lawyer.… I want to set a contrast to the O. J. Simpson [a former athlete and Hollywood celebrity recently acquitted of murdering his wife and another man in a sensational court proceeding] trial, which represents much of what is wrong with the legal process,” he says, referring to what he sees as “a lot of self-aggrandizement by all the parties: the witnesses, the jury, the judge, the lawyers.” He concludes with a warning to the press: “There is a well-recognized tension between the need for a free press and a fair trial, so I hope the ladies and gentlemen of the press will understand that I will defend this case in the courts of law.” Jones is working with McVeigh’s current lawyers, John Coyle and Susan Otto, who are preparing to leave the case (see April 24, 1995 and April 27, 1995). (When the media announces Jones’s naming to the case, one of Coyle’s staffers shouts: “You watch. He will make it all about himself.”) Jones is preparing McVeigh for a grand jury, which is being seated to hear evidence against him. McVeigh turned down the offered services of two lawyers (see May 3, 1995), but is willing to accept Jones’s services. [New York Times, 5/8/1995; New York Times, 6/15/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 231; Serrano, 1998, pp. 248-249; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; TruTV, 2/2009] “There’s no doubt in my mind that Stephen Jones views this to be a horrible crime,” Tony Graham, a former federal prosecutor who has often opposed Jones in court, will comment. “That he can go ahead and represent a person accused of that is the mark of a very professional lawyer.” Enid lawyer and former mayor Norman L. Grey will say: “With Stephen, you know you have a battle on your hands. I don’t think there’s a better legal mind in the area of criminal proceedings, state or federal.” [New York Times, 6/15/1995]
Conspiracy Theories, 'Necessity' Defense - Later, Jones will recall watching news footage of the bombing at his law office in Enid, Oklahoma, and remember his old elementary school being firebombed. “I recognized it as a bombing right away,” he will say. “And the minute I heard about the day care, I thought, ‘That’s it.’ Because I remembered the babies at Waco (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). And later that night I heard about old man Snell [executed white supremacist Richard Wayne Snell—see 9:00 p.m. April 19, 1995] and I thought, ‘Yes, that’s relevant too.’” Author Richard A. Serrano will later write, “Even on that first evening, Jones was thinking conspiracy theories.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 249] Though Jones is not forthcoming about the defense strategy he and McVeigh intend to deploy, legal observers speculate that they will base their defense on attempts to discredit government witnesses that the prosecution will use to build their case against McVeigh. Court observers say McVeigh is working actively with Jones on their defense. In the following days, Jones will begin interviewing people in Kansas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, trying to undermine the credibility of the witnesses the prosecution is expected to bring into court. Jones is also expected to try to prove that the prosecutors’ evidence against McVeigh is largely circumstantial and therefore open to reasonable doubt. Observers doubt that Jones will try to use an insanity defense, because McVeigh is clearly competent to stand trial. They also doubt that Jones will try to allege that McVeigh was motivated by political opposition to the government, since innocent people, including children, were killed in the blast. No one feels that the prosecution will offer McVeigh any sort of plea deal. [New York Times, 5/11/1995] Researchers later learn that McVeigh wants Jones to present what some call a “necessity defense”—admitting to the bombing and justifying it by detailing what he considers the “crimes” of the federal government that his bombing was designed to prevent. McVeigh believes that if the jury hears about the government’s actions at Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992), and at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), at least some of the jurors will be sympathetic. More importantly, such a politicized trial would give McVeigh the opportunity to make his case against an overreaching federal government in the larger court of public opinion. Jones will resist presenting such a defense, in part because he believes that McVeigh has no chance of establishing, as he would be required to do to raise the defense, that the federal government put him in “imminent danger.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]
Third Lawyer to Join Jones, Nigh - Two weeks later, Russell will name Houston lawyer Richard Burr to join Jones and Nigh for the defense. Burr has extensive experience working with death penalty cases, and formerly directed the Capital Punishment Project of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Any capital case, but particularly one of this magnitude, calls for our system of justice to perform as reliably, as fairly, and as humanely as it can,” Burr will say. “I feel honored to become a part of the defense team in Mr. McVeigh’s case.” [New York Times, 5/23/1995]
Entity Tags: David Boren, David L. Russell, John Coyle, Frank Keating, Tony Graham, Norman L. Grey, Susan Otto, Richard A. Serrano, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard Burr, Stephen Jones, Robert Nigh, Jr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The Murrah Federal Building is demolished. [Source: The Oklahoman]The wrecked hulk of the Murrah Federal Building, destroyed in the Oklahoma City bombing a month ago (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), is brought down in a planned demolition. The demolition consists of 150 pounds of dynamite placed in 300 carefully selected locations, and costs the federal and state governments around $404,000. The entire demolition takes about eight seconds. Retired highway department employee Lawrence Glover says: “You can’t stand to look at something like that forever. It’s like when a family member dies and your heart is broken, but you’ve got to bury them and try to get back to the land of the living. Even when you don’t think you ever can.” Linda West of nearby Yukon says: “I had stayed away before now because I felt guilty. I felt like I was intruding somehow. Now that it’s all over, I need some sort of—it’s not closure, because there is no closure on this thing, but it’s like going to the cemetery after the funeral. I was listening to a radio talk show about how most people didn’t know why they came here, they just felt like they had to. I’m like that. I don’t know why, but I had to.” Hundreds of spectators watch the demolition in almost complete silence. Afterwards, many cry, hug one another, and slowly leave the scene. Many at the scene believe a memorial to the dead, and to the responders and rescue workers who saved so many from the rubble, should be erected on the site; others say a children’s playground or library would be fitting. Onlooker Bruce Ligon says, “It doesn’t really matter what they choose, because nobody in this town, or in this country either, is ever going to forget what happened.” [Washington Post, 5/24/1995; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Authorities had considered using cranes and wrecking balls instead of explosives to bring the building down, in concern that a second explosion, no matter how controlled, might further traumatize city residents. “The psychological ramifications were a real consideration of everyone involved in the decision,” Douglas Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc, whose firm handles the demolition process, said last week. “There was a serious discussion about whether we would be traumatizing people even more by having another explosion. But by using implosion, we can bring the building down weeks sooner than by using a crane, and so the mending process can begin that much quicker.” Dusty Bowenkamp, a psychological nurse from Los Angeles who is coordinating the emergency mental health services of the American Red Cross in Oklahoma City, agreed with Loizeaux’s assessment. The building, she said last week, is “a magnet for people with grief.” She said she and her colleagues had discussed the ramifications of a second explosion, and talked with dozens of people who helped bring the dead and injured out of the rubble and others who carried blast victims into hospitals or the morgue. A few, she said, thought imploding the building was a bad idea: “it’s too much like what happened before—too much like the bomb.” The city residents were informed well in advance of the planned demolition so it would not “retrigger more fear.” The lawyer for accused bomber Timothy McVeigh, Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995), had filed a motion to delay the demolition so he could examine the building for evidence, but that motion was denied. [New York Times, 5/16/1995; New York Times, 5/16/1995] Two days ago, a team of people hired by Jones did examine the building for clues; that team included an explosives expert, an architect, and a camera crew. Jones explained that he wanted to understand “the dynamics of the bomb” and “the physics of the explosion.… There needs to be a separate record from that of the government. There is a criminal litigation and civil litigation. All sides will need a record, and the government’s record wouldn’t necessarily be available.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 222-223] A brick wall from another damaged building stands nearby. Written on it in dark red paint is:
We Search for the Truth.
We Seek Justice.
The Courts Require it.
The Victims Cry for it.
And GOD Demands it! [Serrano, 1998, pp. 174]
Stephen Jones, the lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), is engaged in attempts to humanize his client in the public’s perception. As such, Jones gives an interview to the press where he talks about the huge volume of mail McVeigh receives every day, including letters of support and even marriage proposals. “The marriage proposals are kind of strange, but people have sent Bibles and other mementoes along with notes of support,” Jones says. “Some of these people have very anti-government views. They will write and say they believe the feds were responsible. One of the more radical said something like, ‘If you did it, right on.’ Others either wish him the worst or don’t indicate their preferences one way or another, except to say they hope he is able to get a fair trial.” Many of the letters McVeigh receives are from people who believe the government carried out the bombing; some ask if McVeigh was encouraged to carry out the bombing by government “provocateurs.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 235-236]
Stephen Jones, the lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), releases flattering photographs and videotapes of his client, along with McVeigh’s US Army records, saying that the public has a right to know McVeigh “as he really is.” McVeigh is a patriotic, happy young man, Jones says, and, quoting McVeigh’s military records, an “inspiration to young soldiers.” The photos and videotapes show McVeigh smiling and laughing with his lawyers. Jones has also allowed McVeigh to be interviewed by retired Colonel David Hackworth, a Newsweek columnist (see June 26, 1995, July 3, 1995) and June 26, 1995). “The public is entitled to know more about Mr. McVeigh than the government has released anonymously,” Jones says. Jones has already discussed the large amount of “supportive” mail McVeigh is receiving in prison (see June 9, 1995). Newsweek has released excerpts from Hackworth’s interview with McVeigh. Jones denies trying to influence potential jurors, saying: “If I were trying to influence potential jurors, I could say a lot more. The principal purpose behind it is to present our client to the public, to the families of the victims, to the victims who survived, as we believe he really is, to let them see something other than the 10 to 15 seconds of him walking out of the Noble County Courthouse. What I think you should draw from the record is that this is a young man who served his country honorably for four years.” Jones explains that he and McVeigh granted the interview with Hackworth because “Hack wrote him and said that he wanted to talk with my client, soldier-to-soldier.” [Associated Press, 6/26/1995; Chicago Sun-Times, 6/26/1995] The public-relations blitz is not entirely successful. Janet Walker, who lost her husband David in the blast, says: “They can’t make him innocent by putting a smile on his face, and they can’t make him guilty until they convict him. It’s nothing more than a ploy. I know that. He’ll get his in the end, if he’s guilty.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 237-238] Jones tells reporters that McVeigh had been mistreated during his initial incarceration: telephone lines had been disconnected when he attempted to call a lawyer, and jailers had refused to give him a bulletproof vest during his “perp walk” transfer from the Noble County Courthouse (see April 21, 1995) because, Jones says, “It was like they were hoping Jack Ruby would come out.” Jones is referring to the man who shot accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before Oswald could be arraigned. Noble County Undersheriff Raymond Jones strongly denies both of Jones’s claims. Jones also says that a camera set up to monitor McVeigh in his El Reno Federal Corrections Center cell, which is active 24 hours a day, is there to “engage in a kind of psychological warfare” that might “ultimately, perhaps… have an effect on [McVeigh’s] mental stability, which in turn might affect the trial.” The camera is later turned off for four hours a day, complying somewhat with Jones’s wishes. Jones also accuses prosecutors of “wiretapping” McVeigh’s conversations with his lawyers, and says that government wiretaps have been placed on his own phones, charges the prosecution denies. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 233-234, 239] Judge David L. Russell notes that Jones “slipped” Hackworth and photographer Peter Annin into the El Reno facility by pretending they were members of McVeigh’s legal team, and later asks McVeigh if he is comfortable with his lawyer conducting himself in such a manner. “Obviously, you don’t want somebody representing you that is not going to give you their all, would you agree with that?” Russell asks McVeigh. McVeigh says he is confident that Jones is representing him well, and assures Russell that he is “mentally competent” to make that determination. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 247-248]
Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995 and April 24, 1995) gives an interview to Newsweek, saying he intends to plead not guilty to all charges; the interview quickly makes headlines around the country. In a cover story entitled “The Suspect Speaks,” McVeigh tells interviewer Colonel David Hackworth (see June 26, 1995) that the first he knew of the bombing was when a state trooper pulled him over driving north from Oklahoma City some 90 minutes after the blast (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh says he was “horrified” by the deaths of 19 children in the explosion, and adds: “And you know, that was the number one focal point of the media at the time, too, obviously—the deaths of the children. It’s a very tragic thing.” He refuses to directly confirm or deny any involvement in the bombing, saying, “The only way we can really answer that is that we are going to plead not guilty.” The interviewer tells him, “But you’ve got a chance right now to say, ‘Hell no!’” McVeigh replies, “We can’t do that.” McVeigh goes into some detail about his “average childhood” (see 1987-1988); his lawyer Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995), present for the interview, tells the interviewer that McVeigh is “the boy next door, a boy wonder.” Newsweek records McVeigh’s appearance as “a little nervous, maybe, but good humored and self-aware. Normal.” The interview is held in a conference room at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City. Jones has released pictures and an audio-less videotape of McVeigh laughing and smiling while talking to his lawyers, in an apparent attempt to soften his image. Of the video, Jones says, “We want to present our client to the public as we believe he really is.” The country is most familiar with the image of McVeigh being led away from an Oklahoma County Jail in handcuffs (see April 21, 1995). Jones also emphasizes McVeigh’s solid military record (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After). Jones placed heavy restrictions on the interview with McVeigh, and thusly little new material is given. McVeigh will not discuss any evidence that prosecutors say shows his guilt, and Jones refuses to allow McVeigh to answer questions about whether he committed the bombing. Though in May the press reported that sources had said McVeigh confessed to the bombing in prison (see May 16, 1995), Jones says: “I’m not aware of anything he said in the interview that is inconsistent with what has been reported up to this point by the New York Times and every other newspaper in the country. If you’re trying to suggest that there may have been anything inconsistent, may I respectfully suggest that you may have not read the interview carefully.” Jones later disputes one quote attributed to him of McVeigh, where Jones supposedly told the interviewer, “He’s innocent.” Jones says, “I frankly don’t remember saying that he’s innocent and I do not think that is something I would have said.” McVeigh also denies any affiliation with militia groups or attending meetings of such groups (see 1992 - 1995, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, April 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, January 1995, and April 5, 1995), and denies reports that he had called himself a “prisoner of war” and refused to state anything but his name, rank, and serial number (see April 21, 1995). He acknowledges setting off small explosions on a farm in Michigan with his accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994), but says they were little more than plastic Pepsi bottles “that burst because of air pressure,” adding, “It was like popping a paper bag.” He refuses to go into details about his political views, saying merely that he was “bothered” by the 1993 Branch Davidian debacle (see March 1993, April 19, 1993, and April 19, 1993 and After), and acknowledges visiting the site after the final raid by FBI agents. He admits to having “been through Oklahoma City,” but when asked if he and his friend Michael Fortier (see May 19, 1995) had “cased” the Murrah Federal building in the days before the attack, replies, “I think I’d rather not answer that.” He says that the government has “[m]ost definitely” made “mistakes,” but does not characterize himself as an anti-government person. [New York Times, 6/26/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 225]
Newsweek publishes a column by Colonel David Hackworth, who regularly writes on military matters for the magazine. Hackworth recently visited accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) in prison (see May 11, 1995). McVeigh and his lawyer Stephen Jones were featured in a recent issue of Newsweek as well (see June 26, 1995). Hackworth includes little of the actual words of the interview in this column, and spends most of his time giving his impression of McVeigh. He is ambivalent at best, lauding McVeigh’s military record and his ramrod-straight appearance, but speculative at best about McVeigh’s professed innocence. When he talked to McVeigh at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center, he writes, “I realized my gut feeling was right. He has what a lot of soldiers, good and bad, have: fire in the belly. When we talked about the military, a change came over him: McVeigh suddenly sat straight in his chair. The Army, he says, ‘teaches you to discover yourself. It teaches you who you are.’ I know what he means. To warriors, the military is like a religious order. It’s not a job. It’s a calling. Not too many people understand that calling or have what it takes.” Hackworth believes that after McVeigh returned from serving in Desert Storm (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), he “slipped into what’s known among vets as a postwar hangover[. I’ve] seen countless veterans, including myself, stumble home after the high-noon excitement of the killing fields, missing their battle buddies and the unique dangers and sense of purpose. Many lose themselves forever.” He notes that McVeigh voluntarily washed himself out of Special Forces training (see January - March 1991 and After), “but seemingly accepted his defeat stoically. Did his failure drive him over the edge? Maybe, but McVeigh says no: ‘It wasn’t the straw that broke anything.’ He planned to get in shape and come back. Still, something snapped.” Hackworth writes that McVeigh left the Army because of the postwar letdown and the Army’s “drawdown” of personnel (see November 1991 - Summer 1992), and was particularly troubled by his comrades leaving the service. He quotes McVeigh as saying, “You can literally love your battle buddies more than anyone else in the world.” Hackworth adds: “When they shipped out he was devastated, wondering if he’d made a mistake by staying in the military. Losing your war buddies is like losing an arm or a leg—or a loved one. McVeigh may have been crushed by the amputation.” From there, Hackworth writes, McVeigh “couldn’t adjust to civilian life,” and notes: “I’m no shrink, but I’ve seen this failure to adapt many times before. The rules change on you. You’re used to order—having a dear objective, knowing just how to get the job done. Then you’re on your own in a different world, with no structure and little exact sense of what you’re supposed to do.” None of this excuses or even explains the crimes McVeigh is accused of committing, he writes, and concludes: “The Timothy McVeigh I talked with didn’t seem like a baby killer. He was in high combat form, fully aware that his performance in the interview was almost a matter of life and death. If he’d been in combat, he’d have a medal for his coolness under fire. He might also be the most devious con man to ever come down the pike. At times McVeigh came across as the boy next door. But you might never want to let him into your house.” [Newsweek, 7/3/1995] Hackworth’s column contains much the same information he gave PBS’s Charlie Rose in a recent interview (see June 26, 1995). In a harsh critique of Hackworth’s military writing, Slate writers Charles Krohn and David Plotz will call his column on McVeigh “astonishingly sympathetic,” and will mock Hackworth’s “postwar hangover” explanation of McVeigh’s alleged bombing. [Slate, 11/28/1996] Although the interview is dated July 3, the issue of Newsweek containing it appears on June 26.
Federal prosecutors formally notify Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995) that they intend to seek the death penalty against him in his upcoming trial. Prosecutors send a letter to McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, advising that McVeigh will be indicted before August 11 with “one or more crimes potentially punishable by death.” The letter is signed by Patrick M. Ryan, the US Attorney in Oklahoma City. Government officials, including President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno, have said they would press for the death penalty against the person or persons responsible for the bombing (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995 and April 22, 1995). The announcement ends speculation that the prosecution might take the death penalty off the table if McVeigh pleads guilty and cooperates with the investigation. While the prosecutors can seek the death penalty, only the trial jury can impose it, if it so chooses. Jones calls the decision to seek the death penalty a “charade,” saying that the decision was made by Clinton and Reno months ago. In a response to Ryan, Jones writes, “For us to reasonably believe that any type of fair review is to be conducted would require us to accept that you, as a nominee of the president for the position you hold, and the attorney general’s Capital Review Committee, appointed by Ms. Reno, would reach a decision and recommendation which overrides the president and the attorney general’s own public commitment.” Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to invoke the death penalty against McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995). Nichols’s attorney Michael Tigar says he is preparing his defense as if it will be a death-penalty case. [New York Times, 7/12/1995] Two days later, defense lawyers for Nichols inform reporters that the federal government will also seek the death penalty against Nichols. [New York Times, 7/14/1995]
Stephen Jones, the lead lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995), says he will attempt to get McVeigh’s trial moved out of Oklahoma. McVeigh faces the death penalty if convicted of crimes related to the bombing (see July 11-13, 1995). Jones says he has in mind sites well away from Oklahoma City, including New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and the city of San Francisco. “These are places where there has been way less than the usual media coverage,” Jones says. “I haven’t been contacted by a single person from any of those states, in terms of the media.” US Attorney Patrick Ryan has said McVeigh and his accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995), could get fair trials in Oklahoma, and that to move the trial would “further victimize the victims,” whose family members would likely testify during the sentencing phase of the trials if either or both are convicted. Jones says: “That is not a factor used in measuring where trials are held.… We have three criteria. The contents of what has been carried in the media in those states, the facilities to hold trials, and whether there was a nearby federal prison that could accommodate security concerns.… I definitely think we should not be in Oklahoma.” [New York Times, 7/18/1995]
Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995) refuses to give prosecutors a handwriting sample. He is transported from the El Reno Federal Corrections Center, about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City, to a courtroom in Oklahoma City, where he refuses to provide the sample. Prosecutors say the handwriting sample could be compared to a receipt for the rental of the Ryder truck used to plant the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). The courtroom, across the street from the targeted Murrah Federal Building, still has rough wooden plywood covers for many of its blown-out windows and is adorned with purple mourning ribbons. One man in the building wears a T-shirt that reads on the front, “In Memory, April 19, 1995.” The back reads, “A society that makes war against its police had better learn to make friends with its criminals.” McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, argues that McVeigh should not have to provide a handwriting sample on the grounds that it may violate his rights against self-incrimination. Jones also says that McVeigh has written only in block letters since before joining the military in 1988 (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), and that a handwriting sample in cursive letters would require more than a mechanical effort by his client. Prosecution assistant Sean Connelly reminds the court that the grand jury investigating the case has requested the sample, and calls it a “very routine” test. “We are not probing his mind or thought processes,” he says. “If he says he can’t spell ‘no,’ we’ll tell him N-O.” Judge David Russell finally rules that McVeigh will give the sample. “I’m going to order the defendant to comply with the subpoena of the grand jury,” he says. “I don’t see any reason to wait. The law is clear.” To McVeigh, he says, “Failure to comply could be used against you, not just in a contempt proceeding but as evidence in a trial.” When McVeigh again refuses to give the sample, Russell orders him charged with contempt of court and gives the defense five days to respond to the contempt charge. [New York Times, 7/19/1995]
Stephen Jones, the attorney representing accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), says that an unidentified leg found in the rubble of the Murrah Federal Building might belong to “the real bomber.” [Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005] The leg and foot are clad in a combat boot. A medical examiner’s statement says in part: “This leg was clothed in a black military type boot, two socks, and an olive drab blousing strap. Anthropological analysis of this specimen reveals the individual to be light skinned, dark haired, probably less than 30 years of age, male (75 percent probability), and having an estimated height of 66 plus or minus three inches.” Examiner’s office official Ray Blackeney says that the leg was found on May 30, after the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995). “I knew about it,” he says. “We all knew about it here at the Medical Examiner’s.” [New York Times, 8/7/1995; New York Times, 8/8/1995] Jones tells reporters: “There may be a logical explanation for the leg, but none comes to mind. There are no persons unaccounted for. It could have been a drifter nobody knows anything about. It could have been the individual that drove the vehicle used in the explosion. The third possibility is that this person was with the person driving [the vehicle].” [New York Times, 8/7/1995; Washington Post, 8/8/1995; New York Times, 8/8/1995] In late August, the examiner’s office will reveal that the leg belonged to an African-American female, contradicting portions of its earlier reporting. Frederick B. Jordan, the chief of the examiner’s office, will tell reporters, “DNA analysis by the FBI has shown conclusively that the left leg is not male but female.” Hair analysis has proven that the victim was African-American. Jones will tell reporters that the new information destroys any confidence one could have “in any of the forensic work in this case.” [New York Times, 8/31/1995] In February 1996, experts will determine that the leg belonged to a previously identified victim (see February 21, 1996 and February 24, 1996). [Fox News, 4/13/2005]
Michael Fortier, a friend of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh who participated to an extent in the planning of the bombing (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, March 1993, May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, December 16, 1994 and After, 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 19, 1995 and After, After May 6, 1995, and May 19, 1995), testifies to a grand jury about his involvement in the bombing plot. Fortier’s wife Lori also testifies; her attorney, Mack Martin, says: “Her testimony had nothing to do with Mr. Fortier. Her testimony had to do with other people involved in the bombing.” She has been given given a grant of immunity in return for her testimony. Michael Fortier tells the jury of his visit to the Murrah Federal Building with McVeigh to reconnoiter the building, and admits that McVeigh told him he intended to bomb the building (see December 16, 1994 and After). He has pled guilty to illegal firearms trafficking, knowledge of the bombing, and lying to federal agents (see April 19, 1995 and After and April 23 - May 6, 1995). [New York Times, 8/7/1995; Washington Post, 8/9/1995; Washington Post, 8/11/1995; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; Serrano, 1998, pp. 245; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005] McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says Michael Fortier is anything but a credible witness, and notes that Fortier has previously said in a television interview that he did not think McVeigh had any involvement in the bombing (see May 8, 1995). [Washington Post, 8/9/1995] Instead, Jones says in a court filing that the grand jury should begin looking for evidence of a “broad domestic or foreign conspiracy to bomb the Oklahoma City Federal building” by demanding intelligence reports on Iran and other avenues of investigation (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). [New York Times, 8/9/1995] Fortier’s lawyer, Michael McGuire, will say his client came forward out of guilt and remorse. “There is no expression of grief or words sufficient to describe his anguish over the responsibility he feels for knowing about the plans to bomb the Murrah building,” McGuire will say. “The defining thing that made him want to cooperate was his conscience.” Jones says, “I think any time the government has to give two [potential] co-defendants a pretty good deal, there are weaknesses in the case.” Fortier faces a maximum of 23 years in prison and fines totaling $1 million. [Washington Post, 8/11/1995] Through his lawyers, Fortier cut a deal to testify if he was assured he would not be charged as a co-conspirator in the plot, though prosecutors refused to grant him full immunity. Some observers have speculated that Fortier may have agreed to cooperate if prosecutors granted his wife immunity [New York Times, 6/21/1995; New York Times, 8/7/1995] , a deal later confirmed by reporters. [New York Times, 8/8/1995] Lori Fortier tells grand jurors about witnessing McVeigh conduct a demonstration using soup cans on her kitchen floor that illustrated the effects of a massive bombing (see (February 1994)). McVeigh, she says, arranged soup cans to simulate the pattern he could make with barrels of explosives. McVeigh placed the soup cans in a triangle, she says, to direct the force of an explosion at a desired target, with two of the three points of the triangle flush against the side of the truck to maximize the damage. Michael Fortier did not witness the demonstration, she testifies. She also says that McVeigh once drew a diagram that showed how to blow up a building. [New York Times, 9/4/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 91] Both the Fortiers will repeat their testimony in McVeigh’s trial (see May 12-13, 1997).
A federal grand jury indicts Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) on 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. Neither McVeigh nor Nichols are present during the hearing. The grand jury is only empowered to bring federal charges; the eight murder charges are in regards to the eight federal agents slain in the bombing: Secret Service agents Mickey Maroney, Donald Leonard, Alan Whicher, and Cynthia Campbell-Brown; DEA agent Kenneth McCullough; Customs Service agents Paul Ice and Claude Madearis; and Paul Broxterman, an agent in the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Both Nichols and McVeigh are expected to face 160 counts of murder brought by the state of Oklahoma; both will plead not guilty to all counts of the indictment (see August 15, 1995). The indictment levels the following charges:
on September 30, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols purchased 40 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate (2,000 pounds in total, or one ton) in McPherson, Kansas, under the alias “Mike Havens” (see September 30, 1994);
on October 1, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols stole explosives from a storage locker in Marion, Kansas (the actual date of the theft is October 3—see October 3, 1994);
on October 3-4, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols transported the stolen explosives to Kingman, Arizona, and stored them in a rented storage unit (see October 4 - Late October, 1994);
on October 18, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols bought another ton of ammonium nitrate in McPherson, Kansas, again using the “Mike Havens” alias (see October 18, 1994);
in October 1994, McVeigh and Nichols planned the robbery of a firearms dealer in Arkansas as a means to finance the bombing, and on November 5 they “caused” firearms, ammunition, coins, cash, precious metals, and other items to be stolen from gun dealer Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994);
on December 16, 1994, McVeigh drove with Michael Fortier to Oklahoma City and identified the Murrah Federal Building as the target of the upcoming bombing (see December 16, 1994 and After);
in March 1995 McVeigh obtained a driver’s license in the name of “Robert Kling,” bearing a date of birth of April 19, 1972 (see Mid-March, 1995);
on April 14, 1995, McVeigh bought a 1977 Mercury Marquis in Junction City, Kansas, called Nichols in Herington, Kansas, used the “Kling” alias to set up the rental of a Ryder truck capable of transporting 5,000 pounds of cargo, and rented a room in Junction City (see April 13, 1995);
on April 15, 1995, McVeigh put down a deposit on a rental truck under the name of “Robert Kling” (see April 15, 1995);
on April 17, 1995, McVeigh took possession of the rental truck in Junction City (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995);
on April 18, 1995, at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas, McVeigh and Nichols constructed the truck bomb using barrels filled with ammonium nitrate, fuel, and other explosives, and placed the cargo in the compartment of the Ryder truck (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995);
on April 19, 1995, McVeigh parked the truck bomb directly outside the Murrah Building during regular business hours; and
on April 19, 1995, McVeigh “caused the truck bomb to explode” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
The indictment accuses McVeigh and Nichols of plotting the bombing “with others unknown to the Grand Jury.” It does not mention the person identified earlier as “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995). The grand jury says it is confident others, as yet unidentified, also participated in the plot. Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “The indictment mentions unknown co-conspirators. We will try to determine if there are others who aided and abetted this crime.” After the indictments are handed down, Attorney General Janet Reno says: “We will pursue every lead based on the evidence.… [M]ost of these leads have been pursued and exhausted.… [W]e have charged everyone involved that we have evidence of at this point.” Prosecutors say that while others may well have been involved, the plot was closely held between McVeigh and Nichols. US Attorney Patrick Ryan has already announced he will seek the death penalty against both McVeigh and Nichols (see July 11-13, 1995), a decision supported by Reno (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995). A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, has pled guilty to lesser crimes regarding his involvement; Fortier has testified against McVeigh and Nichols in return for the lesser charges (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995), and defense lawyers are expected to assail Fortier’s credibility during the trials (see April 19, 1995 and After, April 23 - May 6, 1995, and May 8, 1995). Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar says, “Terry Nichols is not guilty of the allegations of which he is charged,” calls the case against his client “flimsy” and “irresponsible,” and accuses prosecutors of attempting to try his client “in the national media.” Periodically, Tigar holds up hand-lettered signs reading, among other messages, “Terry Nichols Wasn’t There” and “A Fair Trial in a Fair Forum.” Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Nichols’s brother James Nichols, who was indicted on three related explosive charges (see December 22 or 23, 1988, April 25, 1995, and May 11, 1995). US Attorney Saul A. Green says that “additional investigation failed to corroborate some of the important evidence on which the government initially relied.” [Washington Post, 8/11/1995; New York Times, 8/11/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 189-191; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 245; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, tells reporters after the hearing that he has been in contact with a man who, he says, told the government early in the fall of 1994 of plans to blow up federal buildings. This man, Jones says, was given a “letter of immunity” by the authorities in exchange for information involving a trip he had taken to Kingman, Arizona, Fortier’s hometown, and for information about his discussions with potential bombers whom, Jones says, the man had described as either “Latin American or Arab.” Jones refuses to identify the person to whom he is referring. [New York Times, 8/11/1995]
Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Cynthia Campbell-Brown, Alan Whicher, Stephen Jones, Donald Leonard, Claude Madearis, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Saul A. Green, Paul Broxterman, Paul Douglas Ice, Janet Reno, James Nichols, Kenneth McCullough, Joseph H. Hartzler, Michael Joseph Fortier, Patrick M. Ryan, Mickey Maroney, Michael E. Tigar
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Stephen Jones, the court-appointed lawyer who is defending accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see May 8, 1995), speaks at the University of Oklahoma. Jones, who intends to argue that a group of unnamed conspirators, perhaps members of America’s far-right militias (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995), carried out the bombing and not his client, talks about the impact the case has had on his personal life, and also about the emergence of the dangerous radical right. Jones will argue that if McVeigh did indeed have something to do with the bombing, this radical right had an undue and controlling influence on him. “There are a large number of individuals whom people on the two coasts would refer to as the far right, the fringe group, the militia community,” he says. “At least in the interior of the country, the views of these individuals on subjects as diverse as taxation, the jury system, government regulations, police power, the schools, the family, gun control, corruption, and citizen militia represent not the fringe but increasingly the mainstream.” This “increasingly mainstream” political and social movement, Jones says, has been sparked “not just [by] a dissatisfaction with the government of the day, but a more deep-seated resentment under the circumstances and with the immediate backdrop of Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Waco (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Waco and Oklahoma City have this in common: they have increased the polarization between inpenitent federal officials and disenfranchised social groups such as bankrupt farmers and ranchers and a dislocated working class. One common thread that ties Waco and Oklahoma City together is the shared outrage of the federal government’s failure to acknowledge the full extent of their responsibility for Waco.… Little wonder then that Tim McVeigh, along with millions of other people, shares the outrage of the blunder at Waco.” Jones says that McVeigh is not the monster the media has portrayed him to be (see June 26, 1995). “That is not the Tim McVeigh I have come to know,” he says. McVeigh does not lack faults: “He is well read, but he lacks formal disciplinary training. Simply because he wrote in for information on a variety of controversial political subjects no more makes him a bigot or a neo-Nazi or a racist than the fact that when I was in high school I went to the Soviet embassy and for three years subscribed to Soviet Life magazine makes me a Communist.” He concludes that the case “has the drama of a great trial,” and though his intention in giving this speech is not “to magnify my office… it is hardly possible, for the reasons I have stated tonight, to exaggerate the importance of this case and what it means for our country. Someday when you know what I know and what I have learned, and that day will come, you will never again think of the United States of America in the same way.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 252-254]
In a letter to US Attorney Patrick Ryan, Attorney General Janet Reno authorizes prosecutors to seek the death penalty against indicted Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995). The prosecutors promptly inform the federal court in Oklahoma City that they will do just that. Reno overrides protests from defense lawyers asking her to disqualify herself from the proceedings; 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.” Ryan says the prosecution will seek the death penalty on four of the counts lodged against McVeigh and Nichols: 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. He says “aggravating factors” include 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. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) approves of the decision, and recently 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.” [New York Times, 8/21/1995; Washington Post, 10/21/1995; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Jones refused to take part in the panel discussions over the use of the death penalty, calling them a fraud and a sham, and saying that the process should not have been conducted by the Justice Department. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 253]
Stephen Jones, the lead lawyer for accused 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), says his client will not use an insanity defense when he goes on trial. “The psychiatric and psychological evaluations aren’t 100 percent completed, but from what we know at this point we have no reason to assert a mental defect,” Jones tells reporters. “He’s as sane as any lawyer or reporter.” McVeigh has been pronounced competent by Dr. Seymour Halleck, a University of North Carolina psychiatrist hired by Jones. McVeigh is also being examined by other experts. “There is no mental defect,” Jones tells an audience at the University of Oklahoma, an audience that includes reporters from the Daily Oklahoman. “We’re not pleading insanity, incompetency, or anything like that. It’s a straight, factual defense. I have said he would testify. That’s the present plan.” Jones also accuses Clinton administration members of pushing for a quick conviction and execution before the 1996 presidential election. “This offers [those in] the Clinton administration the opportunity to prove themselves or attempt to prove themselves as tough on crime,” Jones says. In 1996, author and reporter Brandon M. Stickney will write that some of Jones’s comments during the speech seem to mirror McVeigh’s own conspiratorial, anti-government thinking. [Chicago Sun-Times, 11/17/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 258-260]
Richard P. Matsch. [Source: Washington Post]The Tenth Circuit of Appeals removes Oklahoma District Judge Wayne E. Alley from the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), and assigns US District Judge Richard P. Matsch of Denver to preside over the trial. [New York Times, 12/5/1995; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] “We conclude that a reasonable person could not help but harbor doubts about the impartiality of Judge Alley,” the court rules. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 261] Alley’s offices were damaged in the blast, as was the entire courthouse, which stands less than 1,000 feet from the Murrah Building. Alley had a staff member injured in the bombings, and at least 33 of the victims conducted business regularly in the courthouse. Some judges helped in the rescue efforts; some judges attended as many as seven funerals. An employee in the court clerk’s office lost her child in the blast, and many court employees were injured either in the blast itself or in the aftermath. Fundraising drives for the victims and their families were held in the courthouse, and a popular T-shirt being sold features a law enforcement badge and the inscription, “In Memory, April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City.” The appeals court feels Alley risks having his impartiality questioned, and notes that both prosecuting and defense attorneys have requested his removal. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 254; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] In his request for Alley’s removal, defense lawyer Stephen Jones told reporters: “Judge Alley has a distinguished military, professional, and judicial career. Anyone who appears before him has the highest respect for him personally and professionally. However, our belief is that a victim of a traumatic incident cannot sit as a judge in a trial where the person accused of creating the incident is on trial. No one of us would want to be judged by such an individual.” [New York Times, 8/23/1995] US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan also asked that Alley step aside. In court papers, Ryan noted that there was no legal requirement that he do so, but stated that “[i]t is of paramount importance that the nation have complete confidence in the integrity of the verdict ultimately reached in this case, and that partisan detractors not be permitted—however wrongly—to raise questions about judicial fairness. There is too much at stake here to risk even an erroneous reversal, with all its attendant costs to the people of the United States, and most importantly, to the victims of this terrible crime. Failure to recuse could cause delay, uncertainty, and unwarranted focus on a matter that is collateral to the overriding issue of these defendants’ guilt or innocence.” [New York Times, 9/9/1995] Alley, who unsuccessfully fought to keep the case, wrote in a court filing regarding his removal, “The judge who succeeds to this case will have to bear a dreadful burden, and I wish him or her well.” Matsch has experience in similar trials; in 1987, he presided over the civil rights trial of four members of the white supremacist group The Order, who murdered progressive radio talk show host Alan Berg (see June 18, 1984 and After). He is known as a stickler for punctuality and order in his courtroom, brooking little nonsense from lawyers on either side of the case. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors white supremacist and military groups, calls Matsch’s selection “poetic justice.” Defense lawyers for both Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols say they are comfortable with Matsch presiding over the trials of their clients. [New York Times, 12/5/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 255]
Defense lawyers for indicted Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) ask the court for broad access to government documents to support their theory that domestic or “foreign” terrorists were involved in the bombing (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). McVeigh’s lead defense lawyer Stephen Jones files the motion, which says that the sophistication and effectiveness of the bomb lend validity to the theory that the attack was carried out by a “terrorist organization.” Jones’s filing compares the Oklahoma City bombing to 1983 bombing attacks against the US Embassy and a Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon. [Reuters, 12/22/1995]
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 subpoena four men that Jones says may have information about the bombing. The subpoenas are in response to a $30 million wrongful-death lawsuit filed against McVeigh by Edye Smith, who lost her two sons in the blast. Jones wants to depose three members of the neo-Nazi British National Party (BNP): John Tyndall, David Irving, and Charles Sergeant. He also wants to depose Dennis Mahon, a Tulsa resident who heads the regional chapter of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), a white separatist organization. Jones says he wants to know if the three BNP members supplied Mahon with a detonator that may have been used in the bombing. Jones also says that Mahon has told his staffers that he is an explosives expert and had bombed buildings in the past. Mahon denies making these claims, but affirms that Interpol considers him an international terrorist and has denied him admission to Great Britain. Jones says of Mahon, “The FBI has interviewed thousands of people in connection with this case yet they didn’t interview an international terrorist living just 90 miles away.” Jones has hired a London legal firm to pursue leads that suggest international connections in the bombing. Mahon has said he knew McVeigh from 1993 and 1994, when McVeigh traveled around the country selling weapons and items at gun shows (see April 19, 1993 and After). An informant has also told federal officials that Mahon may have been involved in a bombing plot targeting an Oklahoma City federal building (see August 1994 - March 1995 and November 1994). Jones also sends defense team researcher Ann Bradley to Amsterdam to talk with a lawyer for Daniel Spiegelman, a US citizen being held by Dutch authorities on a charge of “trading in stolen manuscripts,” and who faces extradition to the US for weapons smuggling and falsifying passports. The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf runs a story noting the “resemblance” Spiegelman bears to the bombing suspect identified as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Jones tells reporters: “We are certainly pursuing an investigation of that line and have been for some months. The attorney general herself [Janet Reno] said the FBI would certainly be justified to look at a European connection. We believe that the evidence may suggest a broader, deeper, more sophisticated conspiracy.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 264, 271; Associated Press, 2/10/1996]
Entity Tags: Edye Smith, Charles Sergeant, British National Party, Ann Bradley, Daniel Spiegelman, Dennis Mahon, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Tyndall, David Irving, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh, Janet Reno
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Judge Richard Matsch (see December 1, 1995), citing the defendants’ right to an impartial jury in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and November 21, 1995), moves the trial from Oklahoma City to Denver, Colorado. Matsch is the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court in Colorado, and is essentially moving the case to his “home” courtroom. Matsch rules that because of intensive negative media coverage of the bombing, neither Timothy McVeigh nor Terry Nichols can receive fair trials in Oklahoma City. “This court… concludes that there is so great a prejudice against these two defendants in the State of Oklahoma that they cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial at any place… in that state,” Matsch writes. McVeigh and Nichols have been “demonized” in the press, he continues. “The intensity of the humanization of the victims in the public mind is in sharp contrast with the prevalent portrayals of the defendants.… [T]he interests of the victims in being able to attend this trial in Oklahoma are outweighed by the court’s obligation to assure that the trial be conducted with fundamental fairness and with due regard for all constitutional requirements.” McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones, says, “The judge examined all the evidence and saw that Oklahoma sees itself as the victims and that makes it difficult to get a fair trial here.” Prosecutors agreed that Oklahoma City was not the proper venue for the trial, but had asked that the trial be moved to Tulsa, only two hours from Oklahoma City; US Attorney Patrick Ryan, newly appointed by President Clinton to represent the Oklahoma City district, argued that moving the trial would present an undue hardship on the families of the victims who want to observe the trial. Attorney General Janet Reno says the government “does not have the right” to appeal Matsch’s decision and therefore is ready to move to trial “expeditiously.” Reno says the Justice Department would “pursue every means available to provide survivors and loved ones with an opportunity to observe and follow events in the courtroom.” Kathleen Treanor, who lost her daughter and her in-laws in the bombing, is angry with the decision, saying she had intended to go to the trials: “It stinks. Judge Matsch will not have to give up his bed or leave his home. He is inconvenienced in no way. I lost my only daughter and I won’t be able to afford to go.” But Toby Thompson, who lost his brother in the bombing, says: “It is very important that the trial be squeaky clean. If moving it to Nova Scotia would ensure that I wouldn’t have to go through it twice, that would be fine with me.” Legal experts say Matsch made the decision in order to obviate any possibility that the defense would use the venue of the trial as the basis for a possible appeal. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) criticizes the decision, saying Matsch moved the trial to Denver “for his personal comfort.… It is easier for him to go home and sleep in his own bed. That’s what his decision says to the hundreds and thousands of people impacted in this bombing. Its wrong on the facts and it’s wrong on the law.” Keating says he will coordinate with Governor Roy Romer (D-CO) and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, as well as the federal government, to fund transport and housing for relatives and friends of the victims who wish to attend the trials. [Washington Post, 2/21/1996; New York Times, 2/21/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 256; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Chicago jury consultant Joe Guaftaferro says of the venue change: “Colorado, from a jury perspective, could be risky. There’s a lot of white supremacists in those hills.” Public affairs law professor Rita Simon, an expert on the effects of publicity on a jury, says she agrees with Matsch’s decision, and adds, “With proper instruction, jurors could put aside any pretrial prejudice they may have picked up as a result of publicity about the case.” [New York Times, 2/22/1996]
Entity Tags: Patrick M. Ryan, Kathleen Treanor, Janet Reno, Frank Keating, Wellington Webb, Toby Thompson, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Roy Romer, Joe Guaftaferro, Rita J. Simon, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The unidentified leg found in the rubble of the Oklahoma City bombing (see August 7, 1995 and February 21, 1996) belongs to Airman Lakesha Levy, according to DNA tests carried out by FBI forensic scientists. The FBI also uses footprints from the leg to identify it as Levy’s. Levy was buried with a severed leg belonging to another, as-yet-unidentified bombing victim. Stephen Jones, the lead defense attorney for indicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995), says that the prosecution’s forensic evidence “appears to be moving in different directions like a weather vane in an Oklahoma stormy spring.” State medical examiner Frederick B. Jordan says his office made three mistakes in identifying Levy’s remains: burying the wrong leg with her, erroneously reporting that the wrong leg was still attached to the body, and erroneously reporting that Levy was found with a combat boot on her left foot. Jordan says the errors may refer to Levy’s right leg, not the severed left leg. The FBI has not yet identified the victim whose leg was buried with Levy. [Associated Press, 2/24/1996] The leg buried with Levy will never be identified. In 1999, it will be buried with honors, along with an assortment of other unidentified fragments and tissue remnants from the bomb site, in a memorial garden on the Oklahoma City capitol grounds. [Amarillo Globe-News, 12/11/1999]
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]
Lawyers for the accused Oklahoma City bombers (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) assail the prosecution’s decision to seek the death penalty against their clients. They say that Attorney General Janet Reno, who made the final decision to seek the execution of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols if they are convicted (see October 20, 1995), ignored Justice Department procedures in making that decision. “The government cannot simply ignore its own rules when it decides who lives or dies,” says McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones. Jones accuses Reno of “categorical prejudgment” of the death penalty. Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, calls Reno’s decision “two-faced.” Both note that within hours of the bombing, Reno announced the government would seek to execute whoever carried out the attack (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995 and April 22, 1995); rules adopted in February 1996 allow the attorney general to seek the death penalty in federal cases only after informing defense lawyers and going through a review by an in-house Death Penalty Committee. US Attorney Sean Connelly counters that when Reno announced that “she would prosecute [the bombing] to the fullest extent possible, she was not acting as a judge, she was acting as a law enforcement officer.” Defense lawyers also argue that the 1994 federal death penalty statutes are unconstitutional. Connelly retorts, “If the death penalty is not appropriate in this case, it would be hard to imagine any case where it would be.” [New York Times, 5/2/1996]
Prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) ask Judge Richard P. Matsch to prevent defendant Timothy McVeigh from giving a series of television and newspaper interviews. McVeigh’s lawyer has scheduled an interview with a documentary crew from the BBC in October, and says his client wants to do an interview with any of a number of leading television news anchors and newspaper reporters. Jones has repeatedly attempted to “soften” his client’s image as presented in the media. Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler calls the requests “an extraordinary attempt to manipulate the news media to produce a favorable impact on the potential jury pool.” Matsch has ordered all parties involved in the case to “limit” their public comments. Jones argues that McVeigh has been “demonized” in the press, and deserves an opportunity to give a different view of himself to the world. “Mr. McVeigh, at the minimum, is entitled to be seen as a human being and to the extent that any interview or meeting halts the rush to judgment in advance of trial, the interests of justice are served,” Jones argues. As things stand, he continues, “the abuse, distortion, calumny heaped upon our client from the very front steps of the courthouse will ultimately influence the reporting and the jury unless there is some modicum of balance.” [New York Times, 8/30/1996] Matsch will refuse to allow the television interviews, calling them “an inappropriate pretrial dissemination of evidence.” He says he will allow telephone interviews, but according to Jones, he and McVeigh want only face-to-face, filmed interviews that will present McVeigh’s face, voice, and personality on television broadcasts. [New York Times, 10/5/1996]
Accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh, left, and Terry Nichols look on as Judge Richard Matsch orders their trials to be severed. [Source: The Oklahoman]Judge Richard Matsch orders separate trials for accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), in a ruling considered a victory for the defense. McVeigh will be tried first. Both defendants’ lawyers argued that to try the two men together would irreparably harm their right to receive fair trials. McVeigh’s lawyers, Stephen Jones and Robert Nigh Jr., wrote in a filing, “The government envisions a trial in which the actions and statements of Terry Nichols become indistinguishable from the actions of Timothy McVeigh.” And Nichols’s lead lawyer Michael Tigar argued that Nichols “stands in serious risk of being found guilty by ‘mass application’ if he was tried jointly with Mr. McVeigh.” Matsch rules that McVeigh could be harmed by introduction of statements made by Nichols implicating him in the bombing, and the defense’s inability to cross-examine Nichols if Nichols were to exercise his right to avoid self-incrimination. “The court cannot save a joint trial by sacrificing the interests of one defendant to protect the other,” Matsch rules. “Timothy McVeigh will be profoundly prejudiced by a joint trial in this case. His lawyers cannot question Terry Nichols or cross-examine the FBI agents on what they say Terry Nichols said. In short, Timothy McVeigh may be caught in cross-fire.” Tigar says after the ruling, “A separate trial will force the government to prove its case against Mr. Nichols, rather than merely rely on guilt by association and spillover prejudice from the case against Mr. McVeigh.” [New York Times, 9/8/1996; New York Times, 10/26/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Prosecutor Sean Connelly, presenting the government’s desire for a single joint trial, has told Matsch: “The proof will be unified: McVeigh and Nichols, Nichols and McVeigh, every step of the way.” [New York Times, 10/4/1996] Joseph Hartzler leads the team of attorneys prosecuting McVeigh (see May 22, 1995). [TruTV, 2/2009]
Stephen Jones, the lead defense lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see May 8, 1995), takes out a large ad in his hometown newspaper, the Enid [Oklahoma] News & Eagle. The ad features a photo of him marching into court in Denver (see February 20, 1996) and a “farewell message” from him to the people of Enid. The message is titled “To the people of Enid and Northwestern Oklahoma,” and reads in part: “It has been a year and a half since I was appointed by the United States District Court to represent Timothy McVeigh, charged with the greatest act of revolutionary terror and murder in American history, 168 dead, includiing one of Enid’s own sons, 500 injured, and a billion dollars’ worth of property damage. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building forever altered the physical, intellectual, and emotional structure of Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma.” Before departing for Denver, he writes, he wants to speak “to you, my fellow townspeople. No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting, which I hope may only be temporary.… I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which has ever rested upon any lawyer entrusted with the defense of someone where the decision on his liberty and life depends on 12 strangers sworn to find a fair verdict. Without the assistance of that Divine Being whoever attends any of us, those charged with responsibility in the matter of United States of America v. Timothy James McVeigh, whether the prosecution or defense, cannot succeed. With that assistance, we cannot fail and the truth will emerge. At this time of year I ask for your prayers, not only for those of us associated in any way with this case, the law enforcement personnel, prosecution, the court, the witnesses, but also the defense, and most importantly, the survivors and the family [sic] of those who perished.… I bid you an affectionate farewell with a grateful heart for your many acts of personal friendship, affection, and esteem.” Author Richard A. Serrano will later note that Jones cribbed much of his “farewell message” from addresses given by former President Abraham Lincoln. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 257-258]
Defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) seek to suppress the testimony of nine prosecution witnesses. Some of these witnesses are publicly identified for the first time, disclosed in court papers filed by the lawyers for defendants Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh’s trial is slated to begin in March. Some of the newly identified witnesses are:
Fred Skrdla, who worked at a gasoline station in Billings, Oklahoma, some 80 miles north of Oklahoma City, on the day of the bombing. Skrdla remembers a man driving a large Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) buying gasoline between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m (see (1:00 a.m.) April 19, 1995). The man paid cash. Skrdla says he was busy and does not remember if the man was alone or had company. When he saw composite drawings of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), he recognized one of them as the man who bought the gasoline. When he saw television coverage of McVeigh being “perp walked” out of the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma (see April 21, 1995), he became sure that the man he saw paying for the gasoline was McVeigh.
William Dunlap, who took his wife to work in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. Minutes before the bomb detonated in front of the Murrah Federal Building, Dunlap told FBI investigators, he drove past the building and noticed a Ryder truck parked in front of it. Dunlap said he saw a white man get out of the truck and walk to the rear of it. Dunlap said the man wore jeans, was in his mid- to late 20s, had “clean-cut” hair, a “medium” complexion, a slight build, and was between 5’8” and 5’9” tall. McVeigh is 6’2”. Dunlap told investigators he thought the man might have been McVeigh, but he was not certain.
Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, says the “saturation” news coverage of the crime and the arrests has “tainted” the ability of Skrdla, Dunlap, and the other witnesses to make accurate identifications of the person or persons they believe they saw. Jones cites information given to the FBI by David Ferris, a Junction City, Kansas, taxi driver who talked about a passenger he had on April 17, two days before the bombing. In early interviews, Ferris did not say that any of the passengers he had looked like McVeigh, and denied taking any passengers to the McDonald’s restaurant on South Washington Boulevard that day, where the investigators are sure McVeigh went (see May 9, 1997). Interviewers’ notes show that Ferris became emotional during the questioning, and tearfully said he “never picked up McVeigh.” The next day, however, Ferris changed his story, saying he took a man resembling McVeigh to the McDonald’s in question between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. on April 17. Ferris told agents that he had seen McVeigh’s picture on television and was “scared and panicked” after realizing who he was. Jones also contends that identifications of McVeigh by Eldon Elliott and Tom Kessinger, who rented the truck to McVeigh, were tainted by television news coverage of McVeigh; by the time Elliott and Kessinger made their identifications, Jones says, McVeigh’s face was so familiar “monks living on the mountainside in Tibet could have made the same identification.” Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, is attempting to suppress identification by an unnamed witness or witnesses who worked at the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson and, prosecutors say, sold fertilizer to McVeigh and Nichols (see September 23, 1994, September 30, 1994, and October 18, 1994). [New York Times, 1/13/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to bar the witnesses’ testimonies. [New York Times, 2/21/1997]
Entity Tags: Fred Skrdla, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Ferris, William Dunlap, Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Michael E. Tigar, Eldon Elliott
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Federal officials state that the circulation of a sketch identified as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), a man once believed to have had some connection with accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), was a mistake. The person, described as short, stocky, thick-necked, and olive-skinned, was misidentified by a witness who gave an incorrect recollection to federal investigators. Prosecutors say that while the possibility exists that others besides McVeigh and Terry Nichols were involved in the bombing, they have no physical descriptions to give to the public. Prosecutors identify the man in the “John Doe No. 2” sketch as Private Todd Bunting, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, near Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh rented a Ryder truck used in the bombing (see April 15, 1995). Bunting entered the same Ryder rental office on April 18, a day after McVeigh entered the office. The sketch is based on the recollections of Tom Kessinger, a mechanic in the truck rental office. He and two other employees identified McVeigh from the sketch, but Kessinger’s recollection of “John Doe No. 2” as a man accompanying McVeigh was not supported by the others. McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says that because of the misidentification of Bunting, all the identifications of all the Ryder clerks must be thrown out. “I don’t think any of those identifications are now safe,” Jones says. Bunting is 5’11”, 200 pounds, muscular and stocky, with dark brown hair, a wide, square chin, and relatively dark skin. On April 18, he accompanied Sergeant Michael Hertig, another Fort Riley soldier, to pick up a truck that Hertig had reserved five days before. Prosecutors believe Kessinger, pressured by investigators, became confused in his recollections and mistakenly identified Bunting as accompanying McVeigh and not Hertig. On November 22, 1996, Kessinger positively identified Bunting as “John Doe No. 2.” He also says he is now unsure that McVeigh was with anyone when he came to rent the Ryder truck. The other Ryder clerks, Vicki Beemer and Eldon Elliott (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), have said that they believe McVeigh was with another man, but cannot recall what that man looks like. [New York Times, 1/30/1997]
Two prosecution witnesses in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) testify under oath that the person who rented the Ryder truck used to carry the bomb was accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. Eldon Elliott, the owner of Elliott’s Body Shop, the Ryder rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and body shop employee Tom Kessinger both say that “Robert Kling,” who paid $280 cash and said he did not need insurance because he was a careful driver, was, in fact, McVeigh (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). Defense lawyer Stephen Jones questions their credibility, saying that because of Kessinger’s misidentification of another person as having accompanied McVeigh to the store to rent the truck (see January 29, 1997), both Elliott’s and Kessinger’s identifications must be thrown out. The defense is expected to argue that “Kling” was someone else and not McVeigh. Kessinger admits that he misidentified Army Private Todd Bunting as “John Doe No. 2,” whom federal investigators have considered a likely accomplice until recently. Kessinger stands by his identification of McVeigh. In court, Kessinger says he was sitting in the back of the truck rental office, taking a break at about 4:15 p.m. on Monday, April 17, 1995, when he saw two men come into the shop. They stood at the counter and began speaking with Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork that day. Kessinger remembers McVeigh because of something McVeigh said, which is not disclosed in court. He watched McVeigh and the second man—not Bunting—for about 10 minutes. He met with FBI agent Scott Crabtree at 4:45 p.m. on April 19, the day of the bombing, and met with an FBI sketch artist at 3:30 the next morning, he says, to start work on the composite sketches of the bombing suspects. He was then asked not to watch television news accounts of the bombing or to read the press coverage. “They told me to rely only on my own memory,” he says. Jones elicits that Kessinger watches “a lot of MTV, a lot of Discovery Channel,” but does not watch network television news or local news. He says he never saw a photograph of McVeigh until FBI agents showed him a group of photographs on April 30, 1995. Kessinger identified McVeigh as the man he saw in the body shop. Asked by Jones if McVeigh was accompanied by someone else, Kessinger responds: “I don’t know. I want to say yes, but I don’t know who that individual was.” The transaction with McVeigh was short and businesslike, Kessinger recalls, noting that McVeigh turned down the offer to purchase insurance because, Kessinger recalls, “he said ‘I’m not going very far, I’m used to driving trucks out of Fort Riley [an Army base near Junction City], and I’m a careful driver.’” [New York Times, 2/19/1997]
According to reports by the Dallas Morning News, indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) has confessed to planning the bombing and detonating a bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Reporter Pete Slover cites as his source “summaries of several 1995 interviews with a defense team member” [New York Times, 3/1/1997] , though he later admits in a court filing that he could not be sure the story was true before filing it. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] Researchers will later learn that McVeigh suspects his lead attorney Stephen Jones of leaking his purported confession to the press. The leak is later shown to be from a member of Jones’s staff, who gave a computer disk containing FBI reports to Slover, apparently unaware that the McVeigh “confession” was also on the disk. [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] However, this reported speculation is countered by an opinion advanced in 1998 by author Richard A. Serrano, who will write that the defense’s work to humanize McVeigh and “soften” his image (see June 26, 1995) “was blown apart” by the leaked information. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] The Morning News prints the article on its Web site seven hours before its next print edition can be published, and later cites a desire to match the immediacy of television and to ensure its exclusive isn’t “scooped” by a competitor. Editors worried before publication that McVeigh’s lawyers might leak the story in one fashion or another to another media outlet. [New York Times, 3/3/1997]
Details of Bombing Plot, Involvement by Co-Conspirator Nichols, Denials of Wider Conspiracy - According to documents obtained by the Morning News, McVeigh’s defense lawyers wrote that McVeigh told one of them that his bombing of the Murrah Federal Building during working hours would leave a “body count” that would make a statement to the federal government. McVeigh also named his friend, alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols, as being intimately involved with the bomb plot (see August 10, 1995), but insisted he alone drove the Ryder truck containing the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Building. McVeigh also denied any involvement by Terry Nichols’s brother James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988, May 11, 1995, and April 25, 1995). The Morning News describes the source of its reporting as summaries of several 1995 interviews with a member of the defense team’s staff, conducted between July and December 1995 at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center in Oklahoma, where McVeigh was held before his transfer to the Denver area in March 1996. The summaries, the Morning News says, validate much of the prosecution’s contention that McVeigh and Nichols committed robberies and burglary in the course of assembling money and materials for the bombing, even as it acknowledges that they could not be used by prosecutors in either man’s trial. One summary of a July 1995 interview has a staffer asking McVeigh if it would have been better to bomb the building at night when relatively few people would have been present. According to the staffer: “Mr. McVeigh looked directly into my eyes and told me: ‘That would not have gotten the point across to the government. We needed a body count to make our point.’” According to the documents, McVeigh and Nichols used significantly more ammonium nitrate than federal investigators have estimated—some 5,400 pounds as compared to federal estimates of 4,800 pounds—and about $3,000 worth of high-powered racing fuel to make a lethal explosive combination. “Mr. McVeigh states that 108 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer were mixed with the nitro fuel purchased by Terry Nichols,” one summary reads. The summaries also have McVeigh admitting to his involvement in a 1994 robbery carried out by Nichols and himself to fund the bombing plot (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). “Mr. McVeigh stated that he laid out the plan and that Terry Nichols alone broke into [gun dealer Roger] Moore’s house and stole the weapons,” one summary reads. The summary tallies closely with recent statements by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier, who pled guilty to helping transport the stolen weapons and is now helping the prosecution (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995). Fortier has testified that he and McVeigh sold the weapons stolen from Moore in Arizona. McVeigh also detailed a burglary committed by himself and Nichols at a Kansas rock quarry (see October 3, 1994). He also gave information about a third burglary carried out by himself and Fortier of a National Guard armory (see February - July 1994), where they attempted to steal welding tools but only made off with hand tools. According to the summaries, McVeigh denied being part of a larger conspiracy, and said the bomb plot was conceived and executed by himself and Nichols. He called a witness who claimed knowledge of a Middle Eastern or Islamist connection (see February - July 1994) a “bullsh_t artist.” He also said that another conspiracy theory centered around right-wing activist Andreas Strassmeir is groundless (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994 and April 20, 1995). [Dallas Morning News, 3/1/1997; Washington Post, 3/1/1997] Initially, McVeigh’s lead defense attorney Stephen Jones calls the documents “a hoax” and denies that McVeigh made any of those statements. The Dallas Morning News is trying to garner attention and subscriptions, Jones says, and implies that the Morning News’s source is “setting up” the paper: “They just bought the Brooklyn Bridge,” he says. The Morning News has informed Jones of the identity of the source that provided it with the documents. [Washington Post, 3/1/1997] “This is about the most irresponsible form of journalism,” Jones says. He says that after McVeigh learned of the story, his client said, “There’s a practical joker every week.” [New York Times, 3/1/1997]
Defense Alleges Press Stole Documents - The Morning News denies a subsequent defense allegation that Slover stole thousands of computerized documents belonging to McVeigh’s defense lawyers, documents Jones says were used in the Morning News’s reporting. Jones says the documents acknowledge McVeigh’s responsibility for the bombing, but do not constitute a confession. The Morning News, Jones says, got the documents “by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, and theft” involving the defense’s computer files. Attorney Paul Watler, speaking for the Morning News, “categorically denies it committed any crime,” and says the documents were obtained through “routine news-gathering techniques.” The Morning News “did not hack into Mr. Jones’ computer system, and it did not assist anyone else in doing so,” Watler says. Jones says the documents are not, as some reports say, notes of a defense staffer’s conversations with McVeigh; defense lawyers have previously alleged that they produced a “fake confession” designed to persuade a witness to talk to defense investigators. Jones says any such false confessions, if they exist, would not be used during McVeigh’s trial. Jones says he may ask Judge Richard Matsch to delay the trial for 90 days to allow for a “cooling-off period” and allow “people to move on.” Watler says Jones is using the allegations to cloud the trial proceedings. [Dallas Morning News, 3/4/1997; New York Times, 3/4/1997] Freelance journalist J.D. Cash, who writes for a far-right publication called The Jubilee and a small Oklahoma newspaper, the McCurtain Daily Gazette, denies reports that he is the source of the article. Cash says he is not “the intermediary who set up The Dallas Morning News,” but says he is familiar with the documents described in the newspaper’s accounts. The confession, Cash says, is “a mixture of fact and fantasy.”
Possible Negative Impact on Jury - Observers worry that the story may prejudice a potential jury. “It’s a worst-case scenario,” says legal studies professor Jeffrey Abramson. “At the witching hour, but before people have been isolated from pretrial publicity, you get explosive evidence, exactly the kind of thing that makes it very difficult for a defendant to think he hasn’t already been tried in the press.” Law professor Rita J. Simon says the article could make a fair trial very difficult. “The jurors will know there was some report about a confession,” she says. “I can’t imagine, no matter where you hold the trial, that the jurors will not hear about it. As soon as the trial gets under way, the story will come out afresh.” [New York Times, 3/2/1997]
Second Purported Confession - Days later, a second confession from McVeigh is reported, this time published by Playboy magazine. The article containing the purported confession is written by freelance reporter Ben Fenwick, and is apparently based on an internal summary of the case compiled by the McVeigh defense team (see Early 2005). Fenwick had obtained the document in 1996, he later says, and had kept it under wraps in the hopes of eventually writing a book about the case. He quickly wrote an article based on the document and sold it to Playboy after Slover’s article hit the press. According to Fenwick’s article, McVeigh says he detonated the bomb when he was a block away from the Murrah Building, and admitted to the bombing during a lie detector test administered by his lawyers. Other details in the article contradict physical evidence already presented in open court. Jones says: “These escalating reports of alleged statements by Mr. McVeigh are corrupting the heart of the jury system. The American ideals of justice are being held hostage to sensationalism.” Fenwick is soon hired by ABC News as a legal consultant, an arrangement that allows ABC to quote extensively from the article in a special broadcast aired shortly before the trial begins. Fenwick will later admit that he did not authenticate the document before using it. The document and the article will lead the FBI to discover McVeigh’s purchase of racing fuel from an Ennis, Texas, dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). [New York Times, 3/14/1997; New York Times, 3/18/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 271]
Entity Tags: Jeffrey Abramson, James Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Andreas Strassmeir, Dallas Morning News, J.D. Cash, Ben Fenwick, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh, Rita J. Simon, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Murrah Federal Building, Michael Joseph Fortier, Paul Watler, Playboy, Pete Slover, Richard P. Matsch, Richard A. Serrano
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Stephen Jones, the lead lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), demands that the charges against his client be dismissed “with prejudice,” citing what Jones calls “paralyzing pretrial publicity.” Jones is specifically referring to news articles that report McVeigh has confessed to the bombing (see February 28 - March 4, 1997). As an alternative, Jones asks Judge Richard P. Matsch to delay the trial for a year and change the venue to either Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands. Jones says the purported confessions are fabrications, but also says that the confessions used materials whose publication breaches the attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors object to Jones’s requests, and say that a delay would offer “no guarantee that equally bizarre events would not recur as a new trial date approached.” [New York Times, 3/15/1997] Matsch rejects the motion to dismiss the charges, and the motions to delay and change the venue of the trial. [New York Times, 3/18/1997]
The Oklahoma Gazette publishes a November 1996 letter written by accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). The newspaper does not explain why it waited until now to publish the letter, which was addressed to Gazette reporter Phil Bacharach. Bacharach interviewed McVeigh in prison shortly after his incarceration. In the letter, McVeigh lambasts the FBI for the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco (see April 19, 1993), writing: “The public never saw the Davidians’ home video of their cute babies, adorable children, loving mothers, or protective fathers. Nor did they see pictures of the charred remains of childrens’ bodies. Therefore, they didn’t care when these families died a slow, tortuous death as they were gassed and burned alive at the hands of the FBI.” It is well documented that McVeigh was enraged about the Davidian tragedy (see March 1993), blaming the government for setting the fires that killed 78 people (see April 19, 1993 and After), and many speculate that part of McVeigh’s motivation to blow up the Murrah Building may have been due to the Davidian incident (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and March 1995). McVeigh’s attorney Stephen Jones confirms that the letter is authentic, saying, “I don’t think there’s anything in the letter that hasn’t been said before.” FBI agents ask Bacharach for the original letter, and the reporter, after making copies, complies. He says that McVeigh told him nothing of substance about the bombing, and that McVeigh wrote the letter to clarify a quote attributed to him in the November 1995 article by Bacharach. [CNN, 4/8/1997; CNN, 4/9/1997]
Opening statements are presented in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995).
Heavy Security - Security in and around the Byron Rogers Federal Building and Courthouse in Denver, where the trial is being held, is tight. Roads and sidewalks approaching the building are blocked off. Special credentials are needed to walk around certain areas inside the courthouse. Pedestrian traffic in and out of the federal office next door is constrained with a heavy police presence. Federal officers look under the hoods of cars and check beneath vehicles with mirrors on the streets surrounding the building. Concrete barriers prevent vehicles from getting too close to the building. Even the nearby manhole covers are sealed shut. [CNN, 4/17/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 274]
Jury Makeup - The jury (see March 31, 1997 and After) is composed of seven men and five women; their identities and personal information have been shielded so they can avoid being sequestered. Six alternate jurors—three men and three women—are also available. The jurors include a retired teacher, a registered nurse, an auto mechanic, a real estate manager, and a store manager who served in the Air Force. Several are military veterans. One said during jury selection that he hopes the trial will not turn McVeigh into another victim: “I believe there have been enough victims. We don’t need another one.” James Osgood, the jury foreman and store manager, believes in mandatory gun ownership. (Like the other members of the jury, Osgood’s identity will not be revealed until after the trial is concluded.) Several expressed their doubts and worry about being able to impose the death penalty if McVeigh is convicted. Some 100 potential jurors were screened to create this jury of 12 members and six alternates. As the trial commences, McVeigh greets the jury by saying, “Good morning.” He will not speak to them again during the trial. Judge Richard P. Matsch begins by saying: “We start the trial, as we are today, with no evidence against Timothy McVeigh. The presumption of innocence applies.” [Washington Post, 4/23/1997; New York Times, 4/23/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 275; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Prosecution: McVeigh a Cold, Calculating Terrorist - Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler begins with an emotional evocation of the bombing and the story of one of the victims, Tevin Garrett, a 16-month-old child who cried when his mother Helena Garrett left him at the Murrah Building’s day care center. The mothers could wave at their children through the day care’s glass windows, Hartzler says. “It was almost as if you could reach up and touch the children. None of those parents ever touched their children again while they were alive.” He says of Tevin Garrett’s mother, “She remembers this morning [the morning of the bombing] because it was the last morning of [Tevin’s] life” (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995). Hartzler wastes little time in slamming McVeigh as a “twisted,” calculating terrorist who murdered 168 people in the hope of starting a mass uprising against the US government. McVeigh, Hartzler says, “chose to take their innocent lives to serve his own twisted purposes.… In plain and simple terms, it was an act of terror and violence, intended to serve a selfish political purpose. The man who committed this act is sitting in this courtroom behind me. He is the one who committed those murders.” Hartzler says that McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City to avenge the federal assault on the Branch Davidian religious compound outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, and April 24, 1995). “Across the street, the Ryder truck was there to resolve a grievance,” Hartzler says. “The truck was there to impose the will of Timothy McVeigh on the rest of America and to do so by premeditated violence and terror, by murdering innocent men, women, and children, in hopes of seeing blood flow in the streets of America.” He notes that McVeigh carried an excerpt from the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) that depicts the bombing of FBI headquarters in Washington. Hartzler reads the following line from the excerpt: “The real value of our attack lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties.” Hartzler also notes the T-shirt McVeigh wore when he was arrested, a shirt that Hartzler says “broadcast his intentions.” On the front was a likeness of Abraham Lincoln and on the back a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Drops of scarlet blood dripped from a picture of a tree. Investigators found traces of residue on McVeigh’s shirt, in his pants pockets, and on a set of earplugs found in his pocket (see Early May 1995 and After). Hartzler reads from a document McVeigh had written on a computer belonging to his sister, Jennifer (see November 1994). In a letter addressed to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, McVeigh wrote: “All you tyrannical [expletive], you’ll swing in the wind one day for your treasonous attacks against the Constitution of the United States.… Die, you spineless, cowardice [sic] b_stards” (see May 5-6, 1997). Hartzler says the trial has nothing to do with McVeigh’s beliefs or his freedoms of expression: “We aren’t prosecuting him because we don’t like his thoughts. We’re prosecuting him because his hatred boiled into violence.” Of the innocent victims, Hartzler tells the jury that McVeigh “compared them to the storm troopers in [the popular science fiction movie] Star Wars (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Even if they are innocent, they work for an evil system and have to be killed.” Hartzler moves to preempt expected defense attacks on the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Fortier (see After May 6, 1995, May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995), on reports that evidence was mishandled by an FBI crime lab (see January 27, 1997), and the failure to identify or apprehend the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995). Hartzler concludes: “Timothy McVeigh liked to consider himself a patriot, as someone who could start a second American revolution. Ladies and gentlemen, statements from our forefathers can never be twisted to justify warfare against women and children. Our forefathers didn’t fight British women and children. They fought other soldiers, they fought them face to face, hand to hand. They didn’t plant bombs and then run away wearing earplugs” (see Early May 1995 and After) Hartzler returns to the prosecutors’ table; Matsch calls a brief recess.
Defense: McVeigh Innocent, Framed by Lies - McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones, tells the jury that McVeigh is innocent, and says that McVeigh’s views fall within the “political and social mainstream.” Like Hartzler, he begins with the story of a mother who lost one of her two children in the bombing, saying that the mother saw someone other than McVeigh outside the Murrah Building before the bomb went off. “I have waited two years for this moment,” Jones says, and says he will prove that other people, not McVeigh, committed the bombing. Jones sketches McVeigh’s biography, focusing on his exemplary military service and the bitter disappointment he suffered in not being accepted in the Army’s Special Forces (see January - March 1991 and After). It was after he left the Army, Jones says, that McVeigh began to steep himself in political ideology. But far from being an extremist, Jones says, McVeigh began to study the Constitution. The shirt he wore when he was arrested bore the motto “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” but that is not merely a revolutionary slogan, Jones notes: it is the motto of the State of Virginia. McVeigh was “extremely upset” over what he viewed as government abuses of individual liberty, Jones admits, but says it was no different from how “millions of people fear and distrust the government.” McVeigh’s statement that “something big was going to happen” (see Mid-December 1994, March 25, 1995 and After, and April 15, 1995) had nothing to do with the bombing, Jones says, but was merely a reflection of the increasing anxiety and concern he was seeing among his friends and fellow political activists, all of whom believed “that the federal government was about to initiate another Waco raid, except this time on a different scale” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “[B]eing outraged is no more an excuse for blowing up a federal building than being against the government means that you did it.” Jones spends much of his time attacking Fortier’s credibility as well as the consistency of other prosecution witnesses, saying that they will give “tailored testimony” crafted by the government to bolster its case, and focuses on the reports of crime lab mishandling of key evidence (see April 16, 1997): “The individuals responsible for the evidence… contaminated it… manipulated it, and then they engaged in forensic prostitution,” he says. After the case is done, Jones says, the jury will see that the evidence shows, “not just reasonable doubt, but that my client is innocent.” He closes by reminding the jury, “Every pancake has two sides.” [Washington Post, 4/25/1997; New York Times, 4/25/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 275-280; Douglas O. Linder, 2006]
One of the prosecution’s star witnesses in the Timothy McVeigh bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) testifies. Lori Fortier, the wife of McVeigh’s friend and fellow conspirator Michael Fortier, tells the jury that one night in October 1994, McVeigh sat in her Kingman, Arizona, living room and told her and her husband he was going to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. “He drew a diagram, just a box,” she says, “and he filled the box with [soup cans] representing barrels” (see (February 1994)). The box represented the truck he would park in front of the building, and the barrels would be filled with ammonium hydrate and anhydrous hydrazine, a chemical used in rocket fuel. She says she remembers the names of the chemicals because McVeigh borrowed her dictionary the next day to look them up. McVeigh, she says, chose the Murrah Building because it was, in his estimation, “an easy target.” Lori Fortier testifies after being given a grant of immunity (see August 8, 1995); her husband Michael, also cooperating with the investigation and slated to testify, received a plea agreement in return for his cooperation (see May 19, 1995). She also says McVeigh was furious with the federal government over the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, and April 24, 1995), and thought the Murrah Building was the workplace of some of the law enforcement agents involved in the Davidian standoff. She says that McVeigh’s fellow conspirator, Terry Nichols, helped McVeigh in several robberies that the two used to buy the bomb materials (see November 5, 1994), but at the last minute, McVeigh told her and her husband that “Terry wanted out and Terry did not want to mix the bomb” (see March 1995). Her husband also refused to help McVeigh in his getaway after the bombing. She recalls her husband joining McVeigh in building and exploding pipe bombs in the mountains, and remembers a September 1994 letter to her husband from McVeigh in which McVeigh “said he wanted to take action against the government” (see September 13, 1994). Weeks later, McVeigh told the Fortiers that he wanted to blow up a government building. “I think Michael told him he was crazy,” she testifies. She also remembers laminating a fake driver’s license for McVeigh with the name “Robert D. Kling,” an alias McVeigh used to rent the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see Mid-March, 1995, April 15, 1995, 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995, and February 19, 1997). Asked if she feels any responsibility for the bombing, she admits, “I could have stopped it.” She says she didn’t believe McVeigh was capable of actually executing such an action. “I wish I could have stopped it now. If I could do it all over again, I would have.” Fortier holds up under four hours of harsh cross-examination by McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, who paints her as an unreliable drug addict who had hoped to profit from her and her husband’s knowledge of the bombing and continues to hammer at her over her admission that she could have called authorities and stopped the bombing. Fortier admits to using drugs, and to lying about McVeigh shortly after the attack, explaining that she did so for fear that she and her husband would be implicated. “I never had any interest in selling my story,” she says. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 4/29/1997; New York Times, 4/30/1997; New York Times, 5/1/1997; New York Times, 5/8/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 284-286]
Eyewitness Eric McGown tells the jury in the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that he saw McVeigh in the parking lot of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, three times during the weekend before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). McGown’s mother Lea owns and manages the motel. McGown says he first saw McVeigh in a 1977 Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), then backing up a Ryder rental truck, and finally closing the tailgate of the truck. McGown becomes flustered under cross-examination by McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, and admits that he is not sure whether he saw the truck on April 16 or April 17, the day prosecutors say McVeigh rented the Ryder truck that carried the bomb. [New York Times, 5/9/1997]
Prosecutors in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) use a number of witnesses to establish a timeline leading up to McVeigh’s rental of a Ryder truck (under the alias “Robert D. Kling”—see Mid-March, 1995) that, they say, he used to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building (see April 15, 1995). Eldon Elliott, the owner of the Junction City, Kansas, truck rental agency that rented McVeigh the truck (see February 19, 1997), identifies McVeigh as the truck renter “Kling.” McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, presses Elliott to admit that he does not remember what McVeigh was wearing the day he rented the truck, though Elliott maintains he remembers McVeigh quite clearly. Jones notes that in his initial statement to the FBI, Elliott told investigators that “Kling” was either 5’10” or 5’11” “or a little taller,” whereas McVeigh is 6’1”. Other witnesses show that a Junction City taxi took a passenger identified as McVeigh from a shopping center near the Dreamland Motel to a McDonald’s restaurant on April 17; McVeigh was staying at the Dreamland on that day (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) under the alias “Robert Kling.” Security photographs from the Junction City McDonald’s show a man closely resembling McVeigh buying a meal, and, in court, the McDonald’s manager identifies McVeigh as the customer. Prosecutors say McVeigh was in Junction City that afternoon without a car because he had parked his car the night before in Oklahoma City to use for his getaway after the blast. Another witness says he delivered an order of Chinese food ordered by “Kling” to Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel during the time McVeigh stayed in that room, though under cross-examination he says the man who accepted the food was not McVeigh. Perhaps the most memorable witness is Marife Nichols, the Filipina bride of McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see July - December 1990). She testifies that McVeigh had stayed with her and her husband in their Marion, Kansas, home for a few days in September 1994 (see (September 30, 1994)). She testifies that on April 16, 1995, her family’s dinner was interrupted by a telephone call; her husband then left the house and did not return until the following morning. Prosecutors say that Terry Nichols drove 220 miles from their house in Herington, Kansas, to Oklahoma City, where he picked up McVeigh after McVeigh had stashed his car for his planned getaway (see April 16-17, 1995). Press reports have alleged (see February 28 - March 4, 1997) that McVeigh and Marife Nichols had an affair during the summer of 1994; lawyers do not broach the subject during the trial. [CNN, 5/9/1997; New York Times, 5/10/1997; New York Times, 5/16/1997] Marife Nichols will confirm the affair in 2004. [New York Times, 4/9/2004]
The prosecution in the trial 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) rests its case on an emotional note after having presented 137 witnesses. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The government presented what many legal analysts call a masterful case, moving far more quickly than anticipated and using witnesses to establish a string of facts that paint a strong picture of McVeigh’s guilt. The prosecution ends on a powerfully emotional note, presenting a number of first responders and survivors. Florence Rogers, a credit union employee who worked in the Murrah Federal Building, tells the jury of the moment when she lost seven of her co-workers in the bomb blast. She recalls the bomb going off with a “torrnado-like rush.” She was thrown to the floor, she recalls, and, she says, “everything else was gone.” Mike Shannon, chief of special operations for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, uses a diagram to show the jury how the bomb took an enormous “bite” from the north face of the building, and to show where rescuers finally freed the last survivor, 15-year-old Brandy Ligons, over 12 hours after the bombing. “To climb into” the area where Ligons was trapped, Shannon testifies, “it took people lying on their stomach, taking debris, pushing it down under their belly down between their legs. The second person would lay his head on the first person’s bottom and take that debris and pass it between his legs, and they would work their way into the pile. It was just big enough for just one person to wiggle through.” Dangling over Ligons and the rescuers was a 40,000-pound slab of concrete, ready to fall and crush everyone involved. Shannon testifies as to the difficulties of rescuing victims and removing the dead from a building whose front had pancaked into a heap of rubble. The effect was “like squeezing grapes,” he says. “Body fluids were dripping through, and it would just drip onto your gear as you were crawling through, onto your helmet.” Responder Alan Prokop tells jurors of the hand that rose from the rubble of the devastated building and grasped his, a hand belonging to a woman trapped under a huge slab of concrete. Prokop held her hand and felt her slowly die while rescuers tried vainly to free her. He recalls hearing the sound of what he thought was running water, and tells of a fellow rescuer saying, “It isn’t water, Alan, it’s blood.” Dr. Frederick B. Jordan, the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner, presents the jury with 163 death certificates for those who died in the bombing. He tells the jury how some of the victims were identified using the mangled remains of their bodies: a fingerprint from a resident alien card, a print taken from a box of Clairol hair coloring agent from a victim’s home, a scar on a little girl’s arm. The prosecution never mentions a contention by a federal grand jury that McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the truck bomb at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995); indeed, the prosecution does not attempt to prove how or where the bomb was built. The prosecution does not introduce a letter written by Nichols on November 21, 1994 that advised McVeigh to clean out two storage lockers (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). After the prosecution rests, defense lawyer Stephen Jones moves for a summary acquittal, a motion rejected by Judge Richard P. Matsch. However, the judge says he may delete some portions of the indictment before giving the jury its final instructions. Those portions include references to the purchase of bomb components, the rental of some storage units, the construction of the truck bomb at the Kansas lake, and the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer used to finance the bombing, another instance not cited by the prosecution (see November 5, 1994). “I had in mind some redaction of the indictment, or perhaps even more substantial changes, before submitting it to the jury,” Matsch says after the jury is excused for the day. “I think we’ll deal with it at the instructions conference as the most appropriate time.” [New York Times, 5/22/1997; Washington Post, 5/22/1997; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] Legal analyst Andrew Cohen will say that the prosecutors did not “bore” the jury with a morass of technical details, instead moving swiftly through technical testimony and pacing their witnesses so that each day ended with the emotional testimony of a victim or family member. Law professor Christopher Mueller says after the prosecution rests: “[T]his is a trial the way a trial ought to look.… I think the prosecution has presented a very strong, almost compelling case. The biggest payoff is in the abandonment of much of the scientific proof that would have been enormously distracting” to the jury. [Washington Post, 5/22/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997]
Entity Tags: Florence Rogers, Andrew Cohen, Alan Prokop, Christopher Mueller, Brandy Ligons, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones, Richard P. Matsch, Mike Shannon, Frederick B. Jordan, Terry Lynn Nichols, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The defense for 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) opens with the suggestion that the “real” bomber was killed in the explosion. The assertion hinges on a severed leg found in the debris of the Murrah Federal Building (see August 7, 1995 and February 21, 1996). The leg has been identified as belonging to Airman Lakesha Levy, who died in the explosion, but medical examiners had put a leg not belonging to Levy with the rest of her body; that leg remains unidentified. McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, opens with testimony from Dr. Frederick Jordan, Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner, who tells the jury that the left leg originally assigned to Levy remains unidentified. It had already been embalmed, he testifies, rendering DNA identification impossible. “We have one left leg that we do not know where it belongs,” he says. Jones then places Dr. T.K. Marshall on the stand. Marshall, the former chief medical examiner in Northern Ireland who has extensive experience with autopsies of bombing victims, says he believes that the leg belongs to a victim not yet identified; that victim’s body had probably disintegrated except for the leg, he says. “This is an extra left leg,” he says “Until shown otherwise, this must be a 169th victim.” For such a victim to have been almost completely disintegrated, he says, “you have to be near the bomb.” He cites a case from Northern Ireland where a terrorist carrying a bomb into a shed was nearly vaporized when the bomb accidentally detonated. Marshall says his experience with unidentified victims “is that somebody misses them. When nobody misses them, it reinforces the suggestion that the deceased was involved in the bombing.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]
The defense for 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) attempts to cast doubt on the identification of the Ryder truck used in the bombing with one rented by McVeigh under the alias “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). The jury hears testimony from Herta King, a friend of Lea McGown, the owner and manager of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh stayed in the days before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). Prosecutors say McVeigh checked into Room 25 of the Dreamland on Good Friday, April 14, 1995. King testifies that her son, David King, was then living at the motel and she took him an Easter basket on Easter Sunday, April 16. She saw a large Ryder truck in the Dreamland parking lot on that day. “Kling” did not rent the Ryder truck used in the bombing until April 17 (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Renda Truong, a high school student who had Easter dinner with the McGown family, testifies that she, too, saw a Ryder truck in the parking lot on April 16. McGown has testified that she saw McVeigh bring a truck to the motel on April 16 (see May 9, 1997). The New York Times’s Jo Thomas writes, “[T]he testimony elicited by [McVeigh’s lead lawyer Stephen] Jones today may be the start of an effort to establish that Mr. McVeigh had a truck for some innocent purpose, one day before someone else rented the truck that would carry the bomb.” The last witness for the day is Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork for Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, where McVeigh rented the Ryder truck. Beemer says two men came in on April 17 to rent the Ryder truck (see January 29, 1997) but she cannot remember what either man looked like. Asked by Jones, “Are you able to tell us that Mr. McVeigh is Robert Kling?” she replies, “No, I can’t.” Prosecutor Scott Mendeloff, on cross-examination, asks, “Can you say Mr. McVeigh is not Mr. Kling?” She again replies, “No, I can’t.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]
Entity Tags: Jo Thomas, David King, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Herta King, Vicki Beemer, Stephen Jones, Lea McGown, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Scott Mendeloff, Renda Truong, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The defense in the trial 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) calls Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, an FBI forensic lab specialist who has become a “whistleblower” for what he has called shoddy practices at the central FBI crime lab (see January 27, 1997). Lead defense lawyer Stephen Jones uses Whitehurst’s testimony to attack the credibility of the forensics tying McVeigh to the bombing (see April 16, 1997). Whitehurst casts aspersions on one lab technician’s handling of evidence obtained from a piece of the Ryder truck destroyed in the blast; the lab technician, David Williams, never told Whitehurst that the piece from the truck was found by a civilian and therefore of questionable evidentiary value. However, Whitehurst is unable to say that any evidence from the bombing itself was contaminated or handled poorly. Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to allow the defense to introduce the Justice Department report criticizing the FBI lab’s “poor” handling of evidence in several cases (see April 16, 1997). [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/27/1997; CNN, 5/27/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Former US attorney Mimi Wesson later says that “the prosecution was able to dilute quite a bit of the impact of Whitehurst’s testimony during cross-examination.” [Salon, 5/29/1997]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) rests after having presented 25 witnesses over less than four days of testimony. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh does not testify in his own defense. [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] Defense lawyers, led by Stephen Jones, found it difficult to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997). Their story was that McVeigh was the unwitting victim of an overzealous federal investigation and the treachery of his friends. Today, they try to cast doubt on some of the witness testimony, with little apparent success, focusing on critical testimony by two friends of McVeigh’s, Michael and Lori Fortier (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, After May 6, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), calling them drug addicts who were lying in order to profit from their story and to avoid jail time. The last witness, Deborah Brown, who employed Lori Fortier at her tanning salon in Kingman, Arizona, testifies that she had bought amphetamines from the Fortiers, and tells the jury the Fortiers were so poor that “their baby was on some kind of state assistance to get formula and diapers.” Jones plays an audiotape for the jury of Michael Fortier’s telephone conversations that were wiretapped by federal agents in the weeks after the bombing, when Fortier was considered a suspect. In those recordings, Fortier boasted to his brother John that he could mislead federal agents and make a million dollars through book rights from his connection to McVeigh, saying: “I can tell a fable, I can tell stories all day long. The less I say now, the bigger the price will be later.” On another audiotape, Fortier, his voice slurred from apparent drug use, is heard telling a friend: “The less I say right now, the bigger the price later—there will be books, book rights. I’m the key, the head honcho, General Crank. I hold the key to it all.… I could pick my nose and wipe it on the judge’s desk.” Jones also plays excerpts from an interview Fortier gave CNN, where he said: “My friend Tim McVeigh is not the face of terror that is reported on the cover of Time magazine. I do not believe that Tim blew up any building in Oklahoma.” Fortier has already admitted that he lied to the press and the FBI during the early phases of the investigation. However, the defense has no alibi for McVeigh, nor does it offer an alternative theory to the prosecution’s version of events.
Prosecution's Case Not Challenged, Analysts Say - Legal analysts say Jones did little to challenge the prosecution, and note that Judge Richard Matsch prohibited Jones from presenting his theory of a foreign terrorist conspiracy behind the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Neither did Matsch allow Jones to put FBI laboratory technicians on the stand to explain their alleged mishandling of evidence in the case (see January 27, 1997), though Jones did present FBI lab technician Frederic Whitehurst, whose whistleblowing led to a Justice Department investigation that revealed the mishandlings (see May 27, 1997). Jones also suffered a setback when his star witness, Daina Bradley, abruptly changed the story she had told for almost two years. Bradley, a victim of the bombing who lost her two children and her mother along with her right leg, had said that she saw a “swarthy” man get out of the Ryder truck that carried the fertilizer bomb. On the witness stand, Bradley added a new detail: a second, light-complexioned man also in the truck. She was also forced to admit that she had been treated for mental illness and had a poor memory (see May 23, 1997). Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says that the jury is most likely to focus on Jones’s inability to prove McVeigh’s innocence. “The message you get as a juror,” Cohen says, “is [that] this is the worst mass murder in American history. There’s 168 dead, and you can only come up with four days of testimony? What about the alibi? If you’re going to call a guy innocent, you’d better make your case.” [Washington Post, 5/29/1997; New York Times, 5/29/1997; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] After the final presentation, law professor Mimi Wesson, a former assistant US attorney and death penalty expert, says she is “puzzled” by the defense’s “truncated” presentation. “The main thing they tried to suggest was that McVeigh was not alone. They elicited that through witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with someone else, or that they saw someone else at places connected to the bombing. But I must say that rather puzzled me, since it is no defense for McVeigh that he acted with a confederate even if that confederate cannot be identified and has not been apprehended and cannot be prosecuted.” Wesson believes that the defense may be conceding guilt, and may be attempting to build a case for “mitigating circumstances” that would spare McVeigh the death penalty. Wesson says that the testimony of Bradley was very damaging for the defense’s case, and doubly so because Bradley was a defense witness. The lawyer who handled the defense’s attack on the forensic evidence (see May 27, 1997), Christopher Tritico, did a “skilled” job in going after the forensics, but Wesson is not convinced Tritico’s assault swayed many jurors. She calls Whitehurst a “prig, a person who has his own fastidious, rather fussy idea about how things ought to be done, who is extremely inflexible and intolerant about things being done any other way” who did not make a good impression on the jury. Jones’s final attack on the Fortiers (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997) was “predictable,” Wesson says, and nothing the jury had not already heard: “The thing about the Fortiers is not so much that we believe them because they’re truthful—we know they were liars about many things—but in the end I think you believe them because their testimony about McVeigh is corroborated at almost every point by other testimony.” The “parade of victims” put on by the government was tremendously effective, Wesson says: “They did such a tremendously effective case of arousing people’s emotions during the main part of the case.” [Salon, 5/29/1997]
Defense Had 'All but Impossible' Task - In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will write: “The task of the defense team was all but impossible. They could not come up with a single alibi witness. They faced the reality that McVeigh had told dozens of people of his hatred of the government, and had told a friend that he planned to take violent action on April 19. Rental agreements and a drawing of downtown Oklahoma City linked him to the blast. He carried earplugs in his car driving north from Oklahoma City 40 minutes after the explosion. How could it all be explained away?” [Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Christopher L. Tritico, Deborah Brown, Daina Bradley, Douglas O. Linder, Timothy James McVeigh, Lori Fortier, Michael Joseph Fortier, Mimi Wesson, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Frederic Whitehurst
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]
Timothy McVeigh sits in the courtroom during his trial. [Source: India Times]Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is convicted on all 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 6/2/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury deliberates for over 23 hours, spread over four days (including a weekend), before announcing it has a verdict. McVeigh, who enters the courtroom with a smile on his face, shows no emotion when the guilty verdicts are read aloud by US District Judge Richard Matsch; Matsch polls the 12 jurors to ensure that they are indeed unanimous in their verdict. McVeigh is convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight law enforcement agents who died in the blast, one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of using a weapon of mass destruction, and one count of destruction of a federal building. McVeigh awaits a trial in Oklahoma, where he will face 160 counts of murdering the civilians who died in the bombing; Oklahoma City district attorney Bob Macy says he will file state charges that will bring both McVeigh and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols to court to face the death penalty. Many family members break down in tears as the verdicts are read; one woman shouts, “We got him!” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler accepts an ovation from the gallery, and later says: “We’re obviously very pleased with the verdict. We always had confidence in our evidence. Now maybe everyone else will have confidence in our evidence.” Defense attorney Stephen Jones says he will prepare his client for the sentencing phase, where many feel McVeigh will be sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997). (Both sets of attorneys are under a judicial gag order preventing them from discussing the details of the case.) Jannie Coverdale, who lost her grandchildren in the blast, says she has mixed emotions: “This is bittersweet. After all, this is a young man who has wasted his life. I’m glad they found him guilty, but I’m sad for him, too. I feel sorry for him. He had so much to offer his country.… I want him to get the death penalty, but not out of revenge. It’s necessary. I haven’t seen any remorse from Timothy McVeigh. If he ever walked the streets, he would murder again. I don’t want to see that.” Asked if the verdict will bring her closure, she says: “I don’t think there will ever be closure. Too many people are missing.” Sharon Ice, whose brother Paul Douglas Ice was one of the federal agents killed in the bombing, calls McVeigh a “monster.” Former judge Durant Davidson says he supports the verdict: “I don’t have any question about that. There was a time before the trial started that I didn’t know. [But] after having followed it, there would not have been any question in my mind.” In Washington, President Clinton refuses to comment directly on the verdict, citing the judge’s gag order, but says: “This is a very important and long overdue day for the survivors and families of those who died in Oklahoma City.… I say to the families of the victims, no single verdict can bring an end to your anguish. But your courage has been an inspiration to all Americans. Our prayers are with you.” [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Washington Post, 6/3/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] McVeigh’s father William and his sister Jennifer release a statement from their Pendleton, New York, home that reads in part: “Even though the jury has found Tim guilty, we still love him very much and intend to stand by him no matter what happens. We would like to ask everyone to pray for Tim in this difficult time.” [Washington Post, 6/3/1997] Later, a juror says he and his fellows grew more convinced of McVeigh’s guilt with each day that the trial continued. “There is no justification for that kind of action,” juror Tony Stedman will say. [Associated Press, 1/11/1998] As the prosecution leaves the courthouse, a weeping woman pushes her way towards lead attorney Joseph Hartzler, throws her arms around him, and says, “Dear God, thank you for what you have done.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 292]
Entity Tags: Jannie Coverdale, Paul Douglas Ice, Jennifer McVeigh, Joseph H. Hartzler, Richard P. Matsch, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert (“Bob”) Macy, Tony Stedman, Sharon Ice, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Norm Olson, the leader of the Northern Michigan Regional Militia (see April 1994, April 16-17, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), urges convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) to demand the death penalty (see June 11-13, 1997). In a letter sent to McVeigh through McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, Olson writes: “Targeting noncombatants is wrong and cannot be condoned by honorable men. As a soldier, you must die for your war crime.… Do the right thing now, Tim. Die for Janet Reno’s sins for allowing Waco (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Here is your chance to tell the world the true cause of your action. Let her forever live with that!” [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
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
According to an analysis by the New York Times, many questions remain unanswered in the aftermath of the conviction and death sentence of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Who, if anyone, helped McVeigh assemble the bomb? Did McVeigh receive help from co-conspirator Terry Nichols alone (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), or did he receive help from his friends in the militia and white supremacist movements (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995)? Was there a larger conspiracy that the McVeigh trial failed to uncover? In sentencing hearings, McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones hinted at just such a conspiracy (see June 11-13, 1997), echoing assertions he and his fellow lawyers made during the trial—that McVeigh was part of a larger, shadowy conspiracy (see April 24, 1997). Jones asked jurors to spare McVeigh’s life in the hope that McVeigh may at some future date reveal the details of that alleged conspiracy, saying: “The chapter—the book of the Oklahoma City bombing—is not closed. Do not close it. Do not permit others to close it. Let there be a full accounting, not a partial accounting.” Prosecutor Joseph H. Hartzler chose from the outset to focus strictly on McVeigh and eschew attempting to prove the existence of a possible conspiracy. While Jones and his fellow lawyers were not allowed to present what they called evidence of a “global” conspiracy involving McVeigh, Jones’s media comments, including one assertion that both McVeigh’s co-conspirators and the federal government want McVeigh executed to keep him quiet, are fueling conspiracy theories among right-wing militia groups. Within the Justice Department, many argued that McVeigh may well have been part of just such a conspiracy, though evidence of that conspiracy was thin at best and the department is not conducting an investigation into any such possibility. It is possible that the upcoming trial of Nichols may shed more light on the issue. [New York Times, 6/15/1997] Oklahoma Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City) wants McVeigh to face a state trial before his execution in order to explore his theory that the government covered up evidence of a conspiracy, and even that government officials knew the bombing was coming and did nothing to stop it. Key has succeeded in having a district judge order the empaneling of a grand jury to look into his allegations. Key’s lawyer, Mark Sanford, tells a local reporter that he hopes the grand jury will identify the notorious “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995), saying: “I am glad someone is going to start looking into the investigation the federal jury never got into. Maybe we will get some answers. We know there is a John Doe No. 2. We have to get everybody who participated. They all have to be punished for what they did.” [New York Times, 6/15/1997] Key is involved with right-wing militia groups (see July 17, 1998).
The US Senate votes 98-0 to bar burial and other veterans benefits for anyone found guilty of capital offenses. The measure is directed at former Army Sergeant Timothy McVeigh, recently sentenced to death for killing eight federal employees in the Oklahoma City bombing (see June 11-13, 1997), to prevent him from being buried in a military cemetery after he is executed. [Chicago Sun-Times, 6/19/1997] Six days later, the House of Representatives votes to approve a similar resolution sponsored by Spencer Bachus (R-AL). Bachus says his bill was motivated not only by McVeigh, but by another crime: the 1981 slaying of an African-American teenager by Ku Klux Klan members. One of those convicted in the slaying, Henry Francis Hays, was executed and then buried in a Mobile, Alabama, military ceremony with full honors. Hays served briefly in the US Army in the early 1970s. “In a military ceremony, we said to our children and our grandchildren, ‘We’re overlooking this [crime], this is a good soldier,’” Bachus says. The Hays burial caused people to ask: “Who is entitled to a hero’s funeral? Who are our heroes?” As a decorated veteran of Desert Storm, McVeigh could have asked to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. [Deseret News, 6/24/1997; Associated Press, 6/24/1997] McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones calls the legislation a non-issue, saying his client has not asked to be buried in a military cemetery or to be buried with honors: “The controversy about Mr. McVeigh’s burial in a national cemetery is a classic straw man argument. Mr. McVeigh has not demonstrated any intent or desire to be buried in a national cemetery. The politicians are simply flogging this issue for votes when they should be concerned with the legitimate problems of the country. Mr. McVeigh hasn’t been formally sentenced to die yet. He has not lost his appeals, and moreover, he has not been executed yet.” [Rocky Mountain News, 6/20/1997]
Lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) ask Judge Richard P. Matsch for a new trial. They cite a number of reasons for the request, including what they call juror misconduct. Lead lawyer Stephen Jones says that jurors violated an order by Matsch not to discuss the case among themselves before they began their deliberations, referring to a conversation held on May 9 in which one juror allegedly said during a break, “I think we all know what the verdict should be.” Matsch was made aware of the conversation and decided it warranted no action. However, Jones says the conversation proves that McVeigh did not have “an impartial jury.” Jones also says McVeigh was denied a fair trial by Matsch’s ruling that the defense could not introduce into evidence a Justice Department report that criticized practices at the FBI crime laboratory (see January 27, 1997 and April 16, 1997). Jones also attacks Matsch’s refusal to allow the testimony of federal informant Carole Howe (see May 23, 1997), which might have led the jury to conclude that “the government failed to investigate leads which concerned a larger conspiracy to bomb the Federal Building in Oklahoma.” Matsch ruled that Howe’s testimony would have been irrelevant to the charges against McVeigh. “Had the defense been allowed to admit Howe’s testimony and present evidence that others may have committed the bombing,” Jones argues, “the seeds of reasonable doubt would have been planted in the minds of the jurors.” [New York Times, 7/8/1997] Prosecutors will oppose the request, calling the trial “scrupulously fair” and “close to perfect” in its handling. [New York Times, 7/25/1997] Matsch will deny the request (see August 12, 1997).
Federal Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to grant convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s request for a new trial (see July 7-25, 1997). Matsch says McVeigh’s trial was fair and impartial. McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, says he will appeal Matsch’s ruling. [New York Times, 8/12/1997]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), is officially sentenced to death by Judge Richard P. Matsch. The hearing is a formality, as a jury sentenced McVeigh to death the day before; the entire proceeding takes nine minutes. Before Matsch pronounces sentence, he allows McVeigh to speak on his own behalf. McVeigh does so—briefly and cryptically. McVeigh says: “If the court please, I wish to use the words of Justice Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead to speak for me. He wrote: ‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.’ That’s all I have.” McVeigh is referring to a dissent written by Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in a 1928 decision, Olmstead v. United States, which upheld the use of wiretap evidence. Brandeis’s dissent said that the government may not commit crimes to enforce the law, and warned of “terrible retribution” if it did. Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, refuses to speculate as to why McVeigh chose to use that quote, though Jones says it is a favorite of his client. McVeigh believes the government broke the law in the Branch Davidian siege (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Jones’s defense partner, Christopher Tritico, tells reporters he is unfamiliar with the quote and will have to look it up. US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, part of the prosecution team, later says that McVeigh’s remarks were so fleeting that “I didn’t catch it all.” Many families of the bombing victims find McVeigh’s quote cryptic and unclear. Roy Sells, who lost his wife in the bombing, says: “I don’t know if he was referring to the Waco deal or what. I wish he would’ve quoted something from his own heart instead of out of somebody else’s book. I wanted to hear what he had to say about it.” A survivor of the bombing, Paul Heath, says McVeigh’s statement makes it clear he remains unrepentant and still considers himself a revolutionary. During the proceeding, Matsch asks McVeigh for permission to release a letter McVeigh wrote to him on June 22, which asked that Jones be replaced by other lawyers from the defense team for his appeals: Richard Burr, Robert Nigh Jr., and Randall Coyne. The letter was not specific about McVeigh’s reason for requesting Jones’s removal, but cited “problems and difficulties I have had with my appointed counsel in the past.” McVeigh will publicly blame Jones for “screwing up” his trial, and has reportedly told a Buffalo News reporter that he believes Jones repeatedly lied to him about unnamed aspects of the trial (see August 14-27, 1997). Jones merely reminds reporters: “I did not seek this appointment. I am, as I said, a draftee” (see May 8, 1995). [New York Times, 8/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 320; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006] McVeigh will later explain his choice of quote to Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel. “I want people to think about the statement,” McVeigh will say. “What [lead prosecutor Joseph] Hartzler is trying to do is not have people learn. He wants to have them put their heads in the sand.” The Brandeis quote, McVeigh will say, reflects on the death penalty: the government says it is wrong for McVeigh to have killed, and yet “now they’re going to kill me. They’re saying that’s an appropriate way to right a wrong?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 321]
Entity Tags: Paul Heath, Lou Michel, Joseph H. Hartzler, Christopher L. Tritico, Patrick M. Ryan, Timothy James McVeigh, Roy Sells, Richard Burr, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Robert Nigh, Jr, Randall Coyne, Louis Brandeis
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), says his lead defense lawyer Stephen Jones “screwed up badly,” accuses Jones of lying to him repeatedly, and says he does not want Jones to continue representing him (see August 14, 1997). The Buffalo News has reported that McVeigh told a reporter: “It’s a cultural clash between us. Jones would be a politician, and I’d be a statesman.… The truth is this guy only succeeded in getting the death sentence and now he doesn’t want to let go.” An appeals court names Robert Nigh Jr., one of McVeigh’s trial lawyers, to be in charge of his appeal. [New York Times, 8/14/1997; New York Times, 8/28/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 319] In a statement given to the press after McVeigh’s sentencing, law professor and appellate lawyer Alan Dershowitz agreed with McVeigh. “When [McVeigh] gets to prison, he’s going to learn that his lawyer did a terrible job,” said Dershowitz. “This is going to be the grist of the eventual appeal. This was an awful, awful defense.… His lawyers seemed to be more interested in their own reputations.” [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] Four days later, Jones agrees to resign as McVeigh’s counsel. Jones denies lying to McVeigh, saying: “No one has lied to Mr. McVeigh on the defense team. Certainly I haven’t lied to him, and I can’t imagine that anybody else” on the defense team has. “I think it would be extremely difficult to represent him in view of these statements he has made that have no basis in fact. He doesn’t have any basis to seek my withdrawal, but I have a basis to seek it.” He refers to McVeigh as a “liar and an ingrate.” McVeigh has said he will leave it to “Congress, the bar, and the judiciary to investigate and discover” the alleged lies and misconduct of Jones. He also has said he bears no ill will towards the jurors who convicted him, stating, “I thought they ruled too much on emotion, but I wanted to convey no personal vendetta against them.” He said some of the prosecution’s evidence against him “was false or some could be reasonably explained by other phenomenon.” [New York Times, 8/19/1997; New York Times, 8/21/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Shortly thereafter, Jones will announce that he has signed a contract to write a book about the trial. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 319] In 1998, the press will report that when McVeigh learned of Jones’s book deal, he considered it a betrayal, and wrote: “Mr. Jones did this without informing me and without my consent. I cannot believe that his account will not be based upon confidential communications. I consider this to be a betrayal.” Jones will respond that McVeigh knew of his book deal, and discussed whether Jones could help his sister Jennifer find an agent to represent her for her own book deal. Jones will write: “I intend to write a book not about Mr. McVeigh, but about my personal experiences of my role and what it was like for me. All the material for this book is either in the court records, the transcripts and exhibits, or in the press. None of it comes from Tim or any source confidential to him.” The writings from McVeigh and Jones will come from documents later unsealed by the court. [New York Times, 2/11/1998]
Larry Mackey. [Source: Washington Post]Lawyer Larry A. Mackey, the lead prosecutor in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), is profiled by the New York Times. Mackey played what the Times calls “a major, though low-profile role in the first Oklahoma City bombing trial” of Nichols’s co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), and delivered the closing argument in that trial (see May 30, 1997). Mackey had not planned on being involved in the Nichols trial, but honored a request from Attorney General Janet Reno to head the prosecution. McVeigh’s lead lawyer Stephen Jones calls Mackey “very professional,” and says: “He honors his word. If he tells you something, you can bank on it.” Former US Attorney Gerald D. Fines says of Mackey, “He is the most thorough and best-prepared lawyer I have seen in the government or private practice.” [New York Times, 11/1/1997]
After the closing arguments (see December 15-16, 1997) 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), Judge Richard P. Matsch sends the jury to begin its deliberations. Jurors will not be sequestered and are free to go home at the end of the day. Matsch reminds the jury that “individuals, including Mr. Nichols, have the right under the First Amendment to assemble and discuss even the most unpopular ideas, including unlawful acts, and such a discussion does not constitute an unlawful agreement.” He also tells the jurors to weigh the case solely on the evidence. [New York Times, 12/17/1997] Matsch gives the Nichols jury more leeway than he gave the jury that convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Though Nichols faces the same charges that McVeigh faced, Matsch tells the jurors that they can consider charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or involuntary manslaughter for Nichols in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement agents in the bombing. (Because McVeigh and Nichols were tried in federal courts, they could only face charges of murdering federal agents. Both men await state charges of murdering the other 160 victims.) If convicted, Nichols could escape with as little as six years in prison without parole for his role in the deaths of the agents, or he could be sentenced to death. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones (see August 14-27, 1997) says: “I suspect the judge’s thinking went something like this: There was no evidence Nichols was in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and that he himself set off the bomb, so the jury might infer that while he wanted to blow up the building, he didn’t specifically want to kill these people.” To find Nichols guilty of first-degree murder, the jurors must conclude that he is guilty of premeditated murder; if they do not agree on premeditation, then their next choice is second-degree murder, or failing that, involuntary manslaughter, “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” This would be a “lawful act, done without due caution, which might produce death,” he says. Jones is critical of Matsch’s guidelines, saying: “I can’t imagine how the judge persuaded himself to give an instruction on manslaughter. I don’t see how you get involuntary manslaughter out of building a bomb. It’s like a virgin prostitute.” [New York Times, 12/19/1997; New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Stephen Jones, the former lawyer for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997, June 11-13, 1997, and August 14-27, 1997), says he will fight a subpoena from a grand jury investigating the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Documents unsealed today show that the grand jury asked the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office in February to subpoena Jones. “I will not testify,” Jones says, citing both his attorney-client privilege and the Oklahoma shield law protecting journalists from testifying before grand juries. Jones says the shield law applies to him because he is writing a book and three law review articles about issues arising from the case that do not involve privileged information, as well as his appearances as a television commentator. The grand jury was convened after a campaign by Oklahoma State Representative Charles Key (R-Oklahoma City) and accountant Glenn Wilburn (see June 30, 1997). The grand jury does not have any connection with the District Attorney’s upcoming charges against both McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). McVeigh’s current lawyer, Robert Nigh Jr., says the subpoena is a surprise to him. McVeigh has not waived his attorney-client privilege as it pertains to Jones, and any testimony by Jones could jeopardize McVeigh’s appeals. “He’s asked the 10th Circuit to grant a new trial,” Nigh says. “Anything revealed to the grand jury in the nature of defense work product could defeat our defense at a new trial and reveal our strategy.” Law professor Samuel Issacharoff has mixed feelings about the subpoena: “It should be unusual, exceptional and discouraged to try to turn lawyers into witnesses,” he says. “On the other hand, there is a distressing practice of lawyers holding press conferences and holding themselves out as commentators on the events of the day, including their perception of the client. The result is, they seem to invite this. It is a very unfortunate development because it places the lawyer’s interests starkly against those of the client.” [New York Times, 4/25/1998]
Stephen Jones, who represented convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), says in an op-ed for the Daily Oklahoman he is willing to testify under oath that McVeigh did not act alone in the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). During McVeigh’s trial, Jones insisted that there was evidence of a larger conspiracy, perhaps involving domestic far-right militia groups and perhaps Islamist radicals. Jones says he is willing to testify on behalf of Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s accomplice (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998), who is facing 160 counts of murder in an Oklahoma state court (see September 5, 2001). Jones refuses to say whether either McVeigh or Nichols were actually involved in the conspiracy, stating: “At this point, it’s not appropriate for me to name names or to go into detail in the media. There are pending proceedings.” However, he tells a reporter for The Oklahoman, “If McVeigh is saying he acted alone, that is inconsistent with what he told me.” Any such claim of sole responsibility, Jones says, would be inconsistent with his understanding of the case “and certainly contrary to many statements Tim McVeigh made to me while I was his attorney.” Such a claim, he says, “would be nothing more than an effort to obstruct justice in pending judicial proceedings.… If I remain silent, my silence could be taken… as condoning what he has said and I can’t do that.” Jones says his possible testimony would not violate attorney-client privilege, as he no longer represents McVeigh; moreover, Jones says, McVeigh gave up attorney-client privilege when he attacked Jones in a lawsuit last year (see August 14-27, 1997). [Reuters, 3/26/2001]
The Justice Department reveals that it failed to turn over nearly 4,000 pages of documentary evidence to the defense in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 2, 1997). Attorney General John Ashcroft postpones McVeigh’s execution (see January 16, 2001) for 30 days to allow defense attorneys to review the newly released documents. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; New York Times, 5/11/2001; Washington Post, 5/11/2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Apparently many of the documents relate to the FBI’s investigation into the never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995), which the agency now terms a “dead-end” investigation. Sources say many of the documents are “302 forms,” the forms that document the raw interviews conducted by agents with witnesses. [Washington Post, 5/11/2001; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] The documents were found by bureau archivists in Oklahoma City as they canvassed the agency’s 56 field offices in a final search of records related to the bombing in anticipation of McVeigh’s execution (see June 11-13, 1997). Lawyers for both McVeigh and his convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) were legally entitled to review the records as they prepared for the two trials. Justice Department spokesperson Mindy Tucker issues the following statement: “On Tuesday, May 8, the Department of Justice notified Timothy McVeigh’s attorney of a number of FBI documents that should have been provided to them during the discovery phase of the trial. While the department is confident the documents do not in any way create any reasonable doubt about McVeigh’s guilt and do not contradict his repeated confessions of guilt, the department is concerned that McVeigh’s attorneys were not able to review them at the appropriate time.” The FBI blames its obsolete computer system for the error. Prosecutors say the documents were not material to either case. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones says, “I said all along they weren’t giving us everything.” [New York Times, 5/11/2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Law professor James S. Liebman, who helped conduct an extensive study of death penalty appeals across the country, says the failure to produce the documents is “something I’ve just never heard of.… I can tell you, it’s extremely rare if it’s ever happened before.” [Washington Post, 5/11/2001]
New York Times reporter David Stout observes that the FBI’s admitted failure to turn over documents to convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, June 2, 1997, and May 10-11, 2001) will fuel conspiracy theories that will last for years. Attorney General John Ashcroft admitted as much when he ordered a delay in McVeigh’s scheduled execution to review the incident, saying, “If any questions or doubts remain about this case, it would cast a permanent cloud over justice.” Stout writes: “But for some people the cloud has been there all along, and always will be. They will never accept the government’s assertion that the withholding of the documents was simple human, bureaucratic error. And so the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City seems likely to join the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as events whose truth—in the eyes of some Americans—is forever untold.” Charles Key, a former Oklahoma state legislator who has recently released a statement packed with assertions of a larger conspiracy and government malfeasance surrounding the bombing (see May 4, 2001), has been particularly vocal in his scorn over the document incident, and his contention that it is just part of a larger conspiracy by the government to cover up the truth behind the bombing. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones seems to agree with Key; in his recent book (see August 14-27, 1997) Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma Bombing Conspiracy, Jones asserts: “The real story of the bombing, as the McVeigh defense pursued it, is complex, shadowy, and sinister. McVeigh, like the government, had its own reasons to keep it so. It stretches, web-like, from America’s heartland to the nation’s capital, the Far East, Europe, and the Middle East, and much of it remains a mystery.” Others go even farther in their beliefs. Charles Baldridge of Terre Haute, Indiana, where McVeigh is incarcerated awaiting execution, says, “I won’t say that McVeigh didn’t do it, but he wasn’t the brains, he wasn’t the one who orchestrated it.” Asked who orchestrated the bombing, Baldridge replies, “The government.” Many people believe that if the government did not actually plan and execute the bombing, it allowed it to happen, in order to use it as an excuse for passing anti-terrorism laws and curbing basic freedoms. Many of the same conspiracy theories that sprouted in the aftermath of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) are now appearing in the public discourse about the Oklahoma City bombing, Stout notes. [New York Times, 5/13/2001]
Part of the opening page of Gore Vidal’s article about Timothy McVeigh in Vanity Fair. [Source: Vanity Fair]Vanity Fair publishes a profile of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) by author and pundit Gore Vidal, who attended McVeigh’s execution (see May 6, 2001) and who exchanged letters with McVeigh for three years while he awaited execution. McVeigh invited Vidal to attend his execution as a result of their letter exchange.
Simplistic Portrayal of McVeigh as Lone 'Mad Bomber' - Vidal is convinced that the government orchestrated McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) and the media’s portrayal of McVeigh as a lone mad bomber who “wanted to destroy innocent lives for no reason other than a spontaneous joy in evildoing.” Vidal also asserts that, in the government’s story, McVeigh “had no serious accomplices” (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). Orchestrating the media response was not particularly difficult, he writes, as few in the mainstream press were particularly interested in why McVeigh carried out the bombing aside from the simple explanation that he was “evil incarnate.” Any explanation of more complexity, Vidal writes, was dismissed as wild conspiracy theories. It was predictable, Vidal writes, that evidence pertinent to McVeigh’s case was not provided until well after his conviction and sentencing (see May 10-11, 2001), and that it would be largely ignored (see June 1-7, 2001). Vidal recounts numerous instances where, when he began to attempt an explanation of McVeigh’s obsession with the 1993 Branch Davidian conflagration (see April 19, 1993) and his belief that he was at war with the US government on a variety of news broadcasts, he was cut short by the hosts.
'Counter-Attack' against US Government - According to Vidal, McVeigh was clear in his letters that the bombing was more than just, McVeigh wrote, “a simple act of ‘revenge’ for Waco,” but “a strike against the US government,” or more precisely, “a ‘counter-attack’ rather than a self-declared war.” In one letter, he quoted pundit H.L. Mencken as writing, “Every normal man must be temped at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Vidal recalls that he warned McVeigh that “Mencken often resorted to Swiftian hyperbole and was not to be taken too literally.” He then speculates on the “interesting possibility,” perhaps “the grandest conspiracy of all… that he neither made nor set off the bomb outside the Murrah Building: it was only later, when facing either death or life imprisonment, that he saw to it that would be given sole credit for hoisting the black flag and slitting throats, to the rising fury of various ‘militias’ across the land who are currently outraged that he is getting sole credit for a revolutionary act organized, some say, by many others. At the end, if this scenario is correct, he and the detested Feds were of a single mind.” Regardless of who carried out the bombing, Vidal writes, it is clear that “McVeigh himself was eager to commit what he called ‘federally assisted suicide.’” Vidal quotes an interview with Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who interviewed McVeigh in prison and was then released from his oath of confidentiality by McVeigh to discuss his findings with reporters, who concluded that McVeigh was quite sane, and carried out the bombing both in revenge for the Waco assault and because “he also wanted to make a political statement about the role of the federal government and protest the use of force against the citizens.” Smith found that McVeigh was disappointed that the media had refused to discuss what he considered “the misuse of power by the federal government” that impelled him to carry out the bombing.
Limited Contact with Militias - According to Smith, McVeigh told him, “I did not expect a revolution.” He had had numerous discussions with some of the militia groups around Kingman, Arizona, Smith said, about how easy it would be to “cut Interstate 40 in two” and thereby disrupt the transportation between the eastern and western portions of the country, but those discussions, McVeigh told Smith, were “rather grandiose” and never acted upon. Vidal acknowledges that for three years before the bombing, McVeigh lived in the semi-underground world of the American militia movement. During that time, he came to believe, as many militia members did at the time, that the federal government planned on following up its assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) with a massive, nationwide raid on gun owners and militia members in the spring of 1995. Vidal writes, “This was all the trigger that McVeigh needed for what he would do—shuffled the deck, as it were.” Vidal claims that McVeigh, unlike many militia members, had “no hang-ups about blacks, Jews, and all the other enemies of the various ‘Aryan’ white nations to be found in the Patriots’ ranks.” He was fascinated with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) and 1987-1988), he acknowledges, but only for its themes of individual Americans using guns and explosives to overthrow “the System.” Smith bolstered Vidal’s contention by reporting that McVeigh had insisted to him that he was not a racist nor a homophobe—“he made that very clear.”
Rationale for Bombing, and for Killing Civilians, Children - Vidal quotes a 1998 essay McVeigh wrote for the right-wing publication Media Bypass, “Essay on Hypocrisy,” that addressed his choice to blow up the Murrah Building, which contained a daycare center. The US, he wrote, set the precedent for bombing and killing civilians. When US military forces attack Iraqi government buildings with daycare centers or schools in them, McVeigh wrote, the media reported the children were being used as “shields” by the Iraqis. Vidal claims that no evidence exists that proves McVeigh knew about the presence of children in the Murrah Building, and repeats McVeigh’s claims that he had no such foreknowledge. However, Vidal notes, the FBI knew about the children in the Branch Davidian compound, “and managed to kill 27 of them.” In a final set of longhand notes McVeigh sent to Vidal in the weeks before his execution, McVeigh wrote: “I explain herein why I bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I explain this not for publicity, nor seeking to win an argument of right or wrong, I explain so that the record is clear as to my thinking and motivations in bombing a government installation. I chose to bomb a Federal Building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost, the bombing was a retaliatory strike: a counter-attack, for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s ‘Hostage Rescue’ and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government—like the Chinese—was deploying tanks against its own citizens.” The federal government has militarized the police, he wrote, and his bombing was designed as a “pre-emptive (or pro-active) strike against those forces and their command and control centers within the federal building. When an aggressor force continually launches attacks from a particular base of operations, it is sound military strategy to take the flight to the enemy. Additionally, borrowing a page from US foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government. Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option. From this perspective what occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time, and, subsequently, my mindset was and is one of clinical detachment. (The bombing of the Murrah Building was not personal no more than when Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine personnel bomb or launch cruise missiles against (foreign) government installations and their personnel.)”
'Exaggerated Sense of Justice' - Vidal has previously written that McVeigh suffered from what he called “an exaggerated sense of justice,” outraging many who read his words. He defends that characterization, and writes, “I knew that few Americans seriously believe that anyone is capable of doing anything except out of personal self-interest, while anyone who deliberately risks—and gives—his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government is truly crazy.” McVeigh’s act may not have sparked a rebellion, Vidal writes, but it did presage an explosion of sorts in the number of citizens identifying themselves with the militia movement, many of whom joined local militia groups because they believed the government had orchestrated the bombing and then unjustly blamed McVeigh for it. Others believe that government agents planted bombs inside the Murrah Building set to go off when McVeigh’s truck bomb detonated. Many believe that McVeigh was used by the government to perpetuate “state police power,” similar to instances during the Vietnam War when “bogus Viet Cong units that were sent out to rape and murder Vietnamese to discredit the National Liberation Front,” or when US forces pretended to “find” Communist arms dumps in El Salvador. Vidal repeats the tale that all 17 members of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) working in their Murrah Building office suspiciously failed to report to work on the day of the bombing, suggesting that they knew of the bombing in advance (see December 30, 1998).
Militia Involvement? - Vidal then engages in a long and detailed attack on the evidence that shows McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the bomb themselves. He believes that McVeigh and Nichols were involved in a complex and shadowy “plot involving militia types and government infiltrators—who knows?—as prime movers to create panic in order to get” President Clinton to enact the Anti-Terrorism Act, and cites research by journalist and author Joel Dyer, who in his own writings detailed his belief that the government downplayed McVeigh’s militia affiliations to make a case that he was a quintessential and possibly deranged “lone bomber.” Dyer and Vidal both cite the poor defense put on by McVeigh’s trial lawyer, Stephen Jones, who, Dyer contended, “often left the jury more confused and bored than convinced of his client’s innocence. Even when he succeeded in his attempts to demonstrate that a large conspiracy was behind the bombing, he did little to show that McVeigh was not at the center of the conspiracy. Jones’s case led some reporters to speculate that McVeigh himself was limiting his own defense in order to prevent evidence that might implicate others in the bombing from entering the record.” McVeigh did indeed confess to the bombing to his defense lawyers and, later, to Vidal, but, Vidal writes, “I believe that by confessing McVeigh was, once again, playing the soldier, attempting to protect his co-conspirators.” Vidal writes that his own research has unearthed a number of militia members who may have played a part in the April 19 bombing, and a systematic effort by the FBI and the McVeigh prosecution team to quash any evidence of that sort during McVeigh’s trial. He also challenges the government’s assertion that the reports of a third co-conspirator, “John Doe No. 2,” was a US Army private with no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). Instead, he writes, that person was likely a well-known militia member in Shawnee County, Kansas, and possibly a member of the separatist Republic of Texas organization. He cites a book on the bombing by former journalist David Hoffman, who was convicted of trying to tamper with the McVeigh jury (see December 30, 1998), as being “the most thorough of a dozen or two accounts of what did and did not happen on that day in April.” Like Vidal, Hoffman does not believe that McVeigh’s truck bomb could have caused the damage inflicted on the Murrah Building, and cites a number of military and government experts who make the same contentions, even citing one report that claims the “five separate bombs” used in the explosion “have a Middle Eastern ‘signature,’ pointing to either Iraqi or Syrian involvement” (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Vidal notes that the search for bodies in the destroyed building was halted after 16 days (see May 4, 1995), against the wishes of those who wanted to continue attempting to search for more evidence in the bomb site. Six days later the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995), leading one critic, retired Air Force Brigadier General Benton K. Partin, to declare that the building was demolished as “a classic cover-up” executed by Communist agents. Vidal writes of Partin’s belief that Communists orchestrated the cover-up, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” (Vidal errs in his “six day” claim; the building was demolished 19 days later.) Vidal writes: “In the end, McVeigh, already condemned to death, decided to take full credit for the bombing. Was he being a good professional soldier, covering up for others? Or did he, perhaps, now see himself in a historic role with his own private Harper’s Ferry, and though his ashes molder in the grave, his spirit is marching on? We may know—one day.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2001]
Entity Tags: Joel Dyer, David Hoffman, Benton K. Partin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, H.L. Mencken, Timothy James McVeigh, Gore Vidal, Stephen Jones, Terry Lynn Nichols, Vanity Fair, John Smith, Murrah Federal Building
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The FBI gathered a significant amount of evidence that showed links between convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997, June 11-13, 1997, and 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) and white supremacists who had threatened to attack government buildings, according to investigative memos procured by the Associated Press. This evidence includes hotel receipts, a speeding ticket, prisoner interviews, informant reports, and phone records suggesting that McVeigh had contact with white supremacists connected to the Elohim City community (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995). “It is suspected that members of Elohim City are involved either directly or indirectly through conspiracy,” FBI agents wrote in a memo shortly after the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). An FBI teletype shows that some of the supremacists who were present when McVeigh called Elohim City (see April 5, 1995) were familiar with explosives, and had made a videotape in February 1995 vowing to wage war against the federal government and promising a “courthouse massacre.” The AP notes that the Murrah Building, devastated by the blast, was directly across the street from the federal courthouse. The teletype also notes that two members of a violent Aryan Nation bank robbery gang who live in the Elohim City compound left the compound on April 16 for a location in Kansas a few hours away from where McVeigh completed the final assembly of the bomb (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Some of the evidence was not turned over to McVeigh’s lawyers for his trial. “They short-circuited the search for the truth,” says McVeigh’s original lead attorney, Stephen Jones. “I don’t doubt Tim’s role in the conspiracy. But I think he clearly aggrandized his role, enlarged it, to cover for others who were involved.” The FBI agent in charge of the investigation, Dan Defenbaugh, says he never saw the FBI teletype that linked McVeigh to the Elohim City community. He says he would not have considered the teletype a “smoking gun” that would have altered the outcome of the investigation, but his team “shouldn’t have been cut out. We should have been kept in on all the items of the robbery investigation until it was resolved as connected or not connected to Oklahoma City.” Defenbaugh adds that he knew nothing of a 1996 plea offer by prosecutors to one of the robbers, Peter Kevin Langan (identified by the AP as Kevin Peter Langan), who said he had information about the bombing. Langan made several demands the government was unwilling to meet, and the plea offer was rescinded. Langan’s lawyer later said Langan could disprove the April 19, 1995 alibis for two of the bank robbers, casting doubt on their denials of non-involvement with the bomb conspiracy. The FBI acknowledges its failure to turn over some documents, but says it found no evidence that McVeigh was involved with anyone in the conspiracy aside from his accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). FBI spokesman Mike Kortan says: “We believe we conducted an exhaustive investigation that pursued every possible lead and ran it to ground. We are confident that those who committed the crime have been brought to justice and that there are no other accomplices out there.” Part of the problem, Defenbaugh says, was that white supremacist militia groups shared many of McVeigh’s far-right beliefs, and some had their own plans for carrying out bombings that had nothing to do with McVeigh’s tightly controlled conspiracy. “Even though we had our conspiracy theories, we still had to deal with facts and the fact is we couldn’t find anyone else who was involved,” Defenbaugh says. Jones says of the Elohim City connection: “I think Tim was there. I think he knew those people and I think some helped, if not in a specific way, in a general way.” Retired FBI agent Danny Coulson says: “I think you have too many coincidences here that raise questions about whether other people are involved. The close associations with Elohim City and the earlier plan to do the same Murrah building all suggest the complicity of other people.” [Associated Press, 2/13/2003]
The Associated Press reveals that 10 days before the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997, June 11-13, 1997, and 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001), lawyers for FBI laboratory employees sent an urgent letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, saying that a prosecution witness in the McVeigh trial, forensic expert Steven Burmeister, may have lied on the stand (see June 11, 2001). The letter was never given to McVeigh’s lawyers. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones says, “It is truly shocking and just the latest revelation of government conduct that bankrupts the prosecution, investigation, and verdict.” Justice Department spokesperson Barbara Comstock says she does not believe the allegations, even if true, would have affected the outcome of the trial, saying, “Court after court has found that the evidence of guilt against McVeigh was overwhelming.” FBI officials call the allegations against Burmeister specious. FBI laboratory director Dwight Adams says: “It didn’t happen. Steve Burmeister is one of the FBI’s finest experts. He is meticulous and honest.” [New York Times, 5/1/2003]
Lead defense lawyer Brian Hermanson. [Source: Corbis / TruTV]Michael E. Tigar, the former lead attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see June 4, 1998) who now faces a state trial on 161 counts of first-degree murder (see March 1, 2004), joins Nichols’s current defense team in speculating that the bombing may have been carried out by a larger group of white supremacists, of which Nichols was only a minor member and perhaps little more than a scapegoat. While prosecutors say they have “an avalanche of evidence” showing Nichols’s heavy involvement, defense lawyers led by Brian T. Hermanson say that Nichols and his cohort, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), were part of the purported larger conspiracy. McVeigh, Hermanson argues, “conspired with others whose identities are still unknown” and “orchestrated various events and evidence so as to make it appear that Mr. Nichols was involved and, thereby, direct attention away from others.” Some evidence exists of McVeigh’s involvement with the violent white supremacist group Aryan Republican Army (ARA—see 1992 - 1995 and November 1994) and it is possible that McVeigh took part in bank robberies the group carried out. Tigar says, “Is it too bad they killed Tim?” referring to McVeigh’s execution (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001). “If they really wanted to find out what happened, maybe some of the revelations, now that the cover is blown, maybe he would have talked. Who knows?” Tigar seems to be implying that the government executed McVeigh to ensure his silence, a conclusion prosecutors dispute. Prosecutors say they have given the defense all exculpatory evidence, and that they can indisputably prove Nichols’s guilt. Assistant Oklahoma County District Attorney Sandra H. Elliott says, “Whether or not anybody else is involved, we can prove Mr. Nichols is.” Mark S. Hamm, a criminology professor who has written about the ARA, says: “The preponderance of evidence points to the fact that McVeigh had some sort of ongoing relationship with members of the ARA. [But t]here’s no smoking gun here.” Stephen Jones, who represented McVeigh during his trial (see May 8, 1995), says: “Where the Nichols defense clearly wants to go is to try for an acquittal or hung jury using material the government withheld.” If successful, the Nichols lawyers will try to get Nichols’s federal conviction (see December 23, 1997) reversed. However, “it has to succeed in [these proceedings] first.” [New York Times, 3/16/2004]
PBS Frontline releases a chronology of events in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The original source of the chronology is a document given to freelance reporter Ben Fenwick by a disgruntled staff member on the defense team of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) who was unhappy with the way lead attorney Stephen Jones was handling the case (see August 14-27, 1997). In late March or early April of 1997, shortly before McVeigh’s trial began (see April 24, 1997), Fenwick brings the document to ABC News. The document is titled “Factual Chronology,” and details McVeigh’s movements and activities in the years, days, and months leading up to the bombing. Fenwick reportedly had the document in his possession for several months before approaching ABC with it. PBS Frontline producer Martin Smith, at the time an ABC News employee, saw the document. ABC produces two reports on McVeigh; those reports, along with an article Fenwick wrote for Playboy magazine, were the first to use the chronology as source material. Smith and co-producer Mark Atkinson will later produce a dual biography of McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) using the chronology. Of the document, Smith writes, “This 66-page chronology is extraordinary in that it correlates in great detail with everything I had learned about McVeigh and Nichols and provided a great deal of new detail on McVeigh’s movements and actions in the crucial days and hours leading up to the bombing.” Much of the material in the chronology came directly from McVeigh. Smith writes that the material comprises “a startling confession, outlining in considerable detail how McVeigh prepared and carried out the attack.” He notes that the chronology is “consistent with statements made by McVeigh during dozens of hours of interviews done with him by reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck for their recent book, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.” The document is labeled as being from Jones’s law firm Jones, Wyatt, & Roberts, and is stamped, “CONFIDENTIAL AND PRIVILEGED MEMORANDUM; ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT and ATTORNEY/CLIENT COMMUNICATION.” It is labeled as being routed to Jones from Amber McLaughlin and Bob Wyatt, and dated January 22, 1996. [PBS Frontline, 3/2005]
Entity Tags: Lou Michel, Amber McLaughlin, ABC News, Ben Fenwick, Dan Herbeck, Martin Smith, Terry Lynn Nichols, Mark Atkinson, Bob Wyatt, PBS Frontline, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
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