Attorney says developments might cause McVeigh to fight execution
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An attorney for condemned Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh said Friday that his client might consider fighting his execution in light of the execution being delayed.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Friday that he was delaying the execution because the FBI failed to turn over more than 3,000 pages of documents to McVeigh's trial defense.
McVeigh has previously waived all appeals in the case saying he preferred to die rather than spend his life in prison. But attorney Robert Nigh met with McVeigh Friday and afterward said McVeigh is considering his options and might decide to fight his execution.
"Now that this has occurred, he is willing to take a fresh look and evaluate the information," Nigh said.
When asked if McVeigh would initiate legal proceedings to fight his execution, Nigh said, "It is certainly possible. He is going to make an informed decision upon the information contained within the documents and the discussions that we have with him." (Full story)
The Associated Press reported that the FBI began gathering all the reports and documents generated during the investigation last December, according to Special Agent Danny Defenbaugh, who led the investigation.
The documents were logged and compared with information stored in 26 investigative databases in the FBI's main computer system, described by law enforcement officials as antiquated.
Problem was, "some of the materials from various FBI field offices were not part of the investigative database," said Defenbaugh in a statement. "Moreover, this was the first time the OKBOMB task force had seen these materials and none were used in the government's case," he said.
Ashcroft said that he did not expect anything in the files to contradict the verdict against McVeigh, who was sentenced to die for the 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.
But Ashcroft said questions posed by the withholding of the documents were serious and that it was his duty to "protect the integrity of the system of justice."
The FBI documents, which included reports of FBI interviews, known as "Form 302s" and "inserts," and physical evidence, such as photographs, written correspondence and tapes, were turned over to McVeigh's attorneys Thursday, less than a week before his scheduled execution. (Full story)
McVeigh attorney Nathan Chambers said Friday he has "only scratched the surface" in his examination of the documents and he does not know what the files contain. He said he did not know if 30 days would be enough time to study the files.
Attorneys say McVeigh was "distressed" by the news that his execution had been delayed because he had prepared himself to die and he is concerned that he will have to go through the process again.
"He had said his good-byes to his family and to his friends. He is distressed that he has had to put these people that he cares about through this process and may only have to put them through it again," Nigh said.
The lawyer said his client's reaction to the FBI's admission and the production of the documents "certainly was not (one of) amusement."
McVeigh's execution was rescheduled for June 11. Ashcroft said the one-month delay was granted "to allow his attorneys ample and adequate time to review these documents and to take any action they might deem appropriate in that interval." He said he had asked the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate why the FBI failed to turn over the documents.
The decision to delay the execution by 26 days cannot be shortened -- even if McVeigh pleads for the execution to proceed as planned, officials say. But senior Justice Department officials who asked not to be identified acknowledged, however, that court actions could intervene to further postpone the execution.
McVeigh's defense team would be required to first take a request for an appeal of his conviction to a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, the government lawyers said. But the Justice Department's view is that there is no legal basis for McVeigh's attorneys to succeed in court.
"They can try anything, but that doesn't mean it will succeed," said one of the officials. (Full story)
The lead attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh blasted the agency's conduct and competency.
"This is the FBI's most important investigation, maybe ever, and they hold themselves out as being the premier law enforcement agency in the world," Nathan Chambers told a news conference. "If they're incapable of handling their most important investigation in a matter that instills confidence, we all need to be concerned."
Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, a former FBI agent and U.S. attorney whose state was targeted for McVeigh's attack, called the failure to disclose documents an "unforgivable screw-up." But he said he doesn't think the mistake was deliberate or a sign of FBI incompetence. (Full story)
Bombing conspirator Terry Nichols plans to appeal his conviction and life sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court following FBI revelations that it had failed to hand over evidentiary documents to defense attorneys.
Nichols was convicted on charges of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in a trial that followed McVeigh's. Michael Tigar, Nichols' attorney, told CNN that his client has until midnight Friday to ask the court to order the solicitor general to look into the impact of the newly disclosed files from the investigation on his case.
"We will meet that deadline," Tigar said. "Terry Nichols was acquitted of most of the charges against him. He's got a real defense here." (Full story)
FBI Director Louis Freeh was informed Thursday about the problems in the McVeigh case, a bureau official told CNN on Friday.
The discovery that the documents had been withheld was communicated to FBI headquarters on Tuesday.
FBI spokesman Mike Korten told CNN that Freeh was informed of the extraordinary developments "early in the day" Thursday. Asked to explain the delay in informing the director, Korten said officials were looking into the "extent of the problem during that period." (Full story)
The congressional committee with oversight over the FBI sent a letter last month to Freeh saying it is "concerned that the FBI has information technology systems that are slow, unreliable and obsolete -- systems that are unable to address the Bureau's critical needs."
The House Judiciary Committee letter, which was provided to CNN, asks Freeh to give an evaluation of the problems "plaguing" the bureau's computer system and an assessment of what can be done to fix them.
Freeh, who announced recently he would retire from the bureau next month, has not responded to the congressional request. (Full story)
Former McVeigh prosecutor Patrick Ryan said Friday that the discovery of new FBI documents won't be enough to win a new trial. "We had a very clear, concise case of absolute responsibility on McVeigh's part for this bombing. He's since admitted that he took his part in delivering the bomb to the Oklahoma City Murrah Building, where the people were killed," Ryan said. "I don't think there's any chance at all for any evidence in these documents that will be favorable to the defense or provide any type of defense." (Full story)
Stephen Jones, McVeigh's one-time lead attorney, is convinced that his former client exaggerated his own guilt to shield others from prosecution in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Thursday's revelation that the FBI failed to hand over hundreds of pages of documents to McVeigh's defense was something of a "vindication" for Jones, who had long contended that the attorneys had not seen all the evidence.
But he said he didn't think the documents would have any effect on the outcome of the case.
"I mean, Tim McVeigh has said publicly that he committed the crime. And though I think he's exaggerated his guilt, if he says he's guilty, then how could these documents make any difference?" Jones said. (Full story)
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