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McVeigh jury selection centers on death penalty

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April 1, 1997
Web posted at: 9:02 p.m. EST (0202 GMT)

Latest developments:

DENVER (CNN) -- The second day of jury selection in the Timothy McVeigh bombing trial ended Tuesday during questioning of a potential juror who wavered on the death penalty because "it's God's job to judge."

Questioning of potential jurors proceeded at a tedious pace. The day's final candidate, the 13th questioned in two days, was the second who seemed very likely to balk at the death penalty.

"Unless there's no shadow of a doubt, I would not feel comfortable imposing the death penalty," the woman said. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch then adjourned for the day, telling her to return for further questioning Wednesday.

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An unemployed pipe-fitter took a similar religiously rooted stance on Monday. All jurors in this case must be willing to consider the death penalty.

The prospective jury pool, now reduced to 321, must be whittled to 64 before the prosecution and defense begin exercising peremptory challenges.

"How's it going? Slow, still slow," defense attorney Stephen Jones told reporters at the lunch break.

It was expected to take up to three weeks to seat a jury of 12, with six alternates.

McVeigh greets his parents

McVeigh, 28, exchanged greetings with his divorced parents, William McVeigh and Mildred Frazer, as proceedings began. They entered the courthouse together and waved to their son from their front row seats as he mouthed the words, "Good morning."

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The case involves the April 19, 1995, truck bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured hundreds.

McVeigh and his former Army friend Terry Nichols, who turned 42 on Tuesday, are charged with murder and conspiracy in the deaths of the eight federal employees killed in the blast. Nichols will be tried later.

Both men also face state murder charges in 160 deaths.

'Looks like a nice kid'

One prospective juror said she couldn't believe the young man with the buzz cut and blue oxford shirt could be a terrorist bomber.

"He looks like a nice kid," said the middle-aged woman. "It's overwhelming for me to think that this person -- who looks like the average type of person -- could do such a thing."

But the soft-spoken woman said she could still recommend death for whoever was responsible for the bombing.

Another prospective, a philosophy professor, said that while he does not favor state executions he may be willing to consider the death penalty in this case.

Asked how he could square that with his Roman Catholic religious beliefs, he said, "I am willing to consider anything, including whether or not we may be dreaming."

The next man up, a color matcher at an auto paint supply warehouse, said that as he watched news footage of McVeigh's arrest, "Part of me said, 'he did it.'"

One of the prospects was dismissed Tuesday -- the first publicly announced dismissal -- after she cried in court while describing her problems with stress.

The courtroom was filled mostly with reporters. Fewer than a dozen bombing survivors and their relatives were present. In Oklahoma City, about 30 people watched the proceedings on a closed circuit broadcast in a federal auditorium.

 
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