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Judge says McVeigh can drop appeals
DENVER, Colorado (CNN) - A federal judge Thursday granted convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh's request to drop his appeals and expedite his execution.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch gave McVeigh until January 11 to change his mind and file a notice of appeal. If an appeal is not filed, Matsch said, he would set a date for McVeigh's execution by lethal injection.
McVeigh, 32, was convicted of setting off a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and wounding more than 500 others. He asked the judge to schedule his execution in 120 days, the earliest date allowed under federal law.
McVeigh was not in the courtroom for Thursday's hearing. He participated via closed-circuit television from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
"You're making a decision today that may be the final decision on your future," Matsch said.
"I understand. It is the position I take now. I do not foresee changing this decision by January 11," McVeigh said.
McVeigh did not explain why he wanted to drop his appeal, and the judge did not ask.
Matsch did ask the Gulf War veteran whether he had been coerced into making the decision and he said no.
Asked if he was on medication, McVeigh, 32, said he had been taking heartburn medication but had taken none in the past 24 hours.
The decision to drop his appeals was a reversal for McVeigh, who had vigorously fought his conviction and death sentence, and had taken his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has never admitted having any role in the bombing.
After the hearing, McVeigh's attorney, Dennis Hartley, said that he opposed the decision and felt that there were still viable issues that could be raised in his appeals.
Hartley said that he was considering asking the president for clemency.
If executed next spring, McVeigh's would be the first federal execution in more than 35 years. Federal death row inmate Juan Garza was scheduled to die Dec. 12 but President Clinton stayed the execution for at least six months.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 340 federal executions in U.S. history. The last one was in 1963, when Victor Fequer was hanged in Iowa for kidnapping.
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