After a second legal setback, Timothy McVeigh puts an end to all efforts to delay his execution. Monday, he will be put to death by lethal injection.
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2001
DENVER -- His hopes thwarted for the second day in a row, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh abandoned all appeals Thursday and prepared to be executed Monday for the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
McVeigh's decision came within minutes of his learning that a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his lawyers "utterly failed to demonstrate substantial grounds" why he should not be put to death next week.
McVeigh could have petitioned the full appeals court or taken his case directly to the Supreme Court.
"We have informed Mr. McVeigh about the circuit's decision and I would like to tell you that he intends to petition . . . to the U.S. Supreme Court, but I cannot. Mr. McVeigh does not want to proceed any further in legal actions in order to try to stop his execution," said his lawyer Rob Nigh, who appeared shaken and close to tears.
McVeigh's decision came exactly a week after he had agreed to let his attorneys file for a stay because of revelations that the FBI withheld thousands of pages of documents from the defense at his trial. Before those documents came to light, McVeigh had steadfastly refused to appeal and had sought a swift execution. He would be the first federal prisoner executed since 1963.
Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement in Washington, saying: "Today's ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is a ruling in favor of justice. . . . Timothy McVeigh is responsible for the brutal murder of 168 people, including 19 children, and he will now be brought to justice."
McVeigh also declined to ask President Bush for clemency, Nigh said.
"I think his resolve was clear. He takes this much more in stride than probably his lawyers do, most certainly," Nigh said.
He said McVeigh now would prepare to die by injection at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.
"He has family and friends that he must say his goodbyes to. The kind of introspection and psychological preparation he has to go through only he can know and other people in his position can know," Nigh said.
McVeigh's lawyers had wanted more time to review nearly 4,500 pages of belatedly released FBI documents for information they felt could have helped in his defense during the 1997 trial.
The lawyers argued that U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch was caught up in the horror of the April 1995 bombing and "lost sight of the demands of fairness."
On Wednesday, Matsch, who presided over the trial in Denver, denied McVeigh's request to delay his execution.
The appeals court also refused to reopen McVeigh's appeal, noting "our complete agreement with McVeigh's candid concession in his district court filings that the newly produced materials do not satisfy the standard."
In Terre Haute earlier Thursday, preparations for the execution continued. McVeigh's lawyer Nathan Chambers spent some time with the 33-year-old.
"He is well," Chambers.
McVeigh was originally scheduled to die May 16. Just days before, however, the Justice Department began turning over FBI evidence that should have been given to McVeigh's lawyers before his trial, and Ashcroft postponed the execution.
In Oklahoma City, execution witness Kay Fulton said she had expected to have at least one more month to prepare for the death of the man who killed her brother, 42-year-old Customs agent Paul Ice.
"In the last month and the last couple of days, a big heavy cloud is hanging over my head," Fulton said. "I tend to lose focus on what is important. The importance is Paul Ice and the other 167 victims. Once McVeigh the monster is out of the picture, I can focus on that."
In the appeal, Nigh asked the appeals judges to set aside their emotions while reviewing the case.
He said if the defense attorneys had more time to review the documents, they could show that the FBI suppressed credible evidence that other people played a significant role in the bombing. He said such information might have swayed the jurors not to sentence McVeigh to death.
Stephen Jones, who represented McVeigh at trial, said the decorated Gulf War veteran had prohibited his lawyers from pursuing other suspects. Jones said McVeigh told them: "I'm the client and I should be in charge."
Legal experts said McVeigh may have sealed his fate by dropping all appeals months ago and admitting in a book that he alone bombed the Oklahoma City federal building.
At the prison, canopied golf carts scurried around with equipment, and crews hooked up power cables to more than 30 office trailers set up by national news organizations, including CNN and Court TV.