Ashcroft OKs closed TV feed of McVeigh execution
Justice Department source says announcement to be made Thursday
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General John Ashcroft will announce Thursday that he will allow survivors and families of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing to view in their hometown a televised closed-circuit feed of the execution of Timothy McVeigh, according to Justice Department sources.
Ashcroft set a press conference for 9 a.m. Thursday to announce the decision and address other issues relating to McVeigh's scheduled May 16 execution.
Ashcroft's decision follows a meeting with more than 100 survivors and family members Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Many of the survivors made clear to the Ashcroft that they wish to witness the McVeigh execution -- if not in person, at least in a closed-circuit feed.
Justice officials emphatically denied that publicly televising the execution was seriously considered. McVeigh's request for a televised execution was quickly rejected, officials said.
A more difficult decision for the Justice Department, which oversees the federal Bureau of Prisons, has been how to handle media requests for access to McVeigh and to other federal prisoners on death row.
To the applause of Oklahoma family members, Ashcroft made clear on Tuesday that he does not want to provide a public platform for McVeigh to speak out in his final days.
However, a Justice Department official said Wednesday that a final decision had not been reached on a total prohibition on death row interviews.
McVeigh had tentatively agreed to five televised interviews, but this week he apparently decided to back out of all of them.
A McVeigh attorney said his client was displeased with recent media coverage of disclosures in his recently published biography.
Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who will join Ashcroft at the Thursday press conference, has headed a team that spent months putting in place a highly detailed plan for federal executions.
She and Ashcroft are expected to discuss procedures to be followed if McVeigh should have a last-minute change of heart and seek to exhaust his legal appeals.
Officials say it is likely that McVeigh's final opportunity to ask an attorney to take his case back to court would come two hours before the scheduled execution.
Absent court action, last-second requests from McVeigh to halt the execution would be rejected.
Officials say that prison authorities at 10 minutes before the execution would receive, through and open phone line to the Justice Department and White House in Washington, the final go-ahead to begin the lethal injection process.
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