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Ashcroft suggests closed-circuit televising of McVeigh execution


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday he wants to discuss with the families of Oklahoma City bombing victims whether to provide a closed circuit televised feed that could allow them to witness the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

Justice Department officials, who asked not to be identified, said Ashcroft was considering a trip to Oklahoma City to discuss the issue. The officials acknowledged the issue will need to be decided soon. Some 250 survivors and relatives of victims have expressed interest in viewing the execution by lethal injection.

Earlier Tuesday, at a Justice Department news conference, Ashcroft indicated a desire to meet with some family members but said no meeting has yet been scheduled.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons has been considering a possible closed circuit arrangement that would allow relatives of bombing victims and survivors of the 1995 federal building attack that killed 168 and wounded 500 others to witness the May 16 execution in Terre Haute, Ind.

One plan being considered would allow the families who so desired to witness the execution in Oklahoma City. Another would require them to travel to Terre Haute where they could watch from a remote location.

Prison regulations established for the new execution chamber, which has not yet been used, allow for a limited number of eyewitnesses -- less than 25, not including officials. The facility has small separated rooms for officials, members of the condemned inmate's family, relatives of the victims and the news media.

Ashcroft did not say how soon he would make his decision on the matter.

"Prior to making a final decision, I expect to confer with members of that family group and their representatives as well as to receive the recommendation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and will announce our plan for accommodating and appropriately respecting the sensitivities of these families and the needs of justice," Ashcroft said.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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