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Relief eases grief of survivors, victims' relatives

site In this story: June 2, 1997
Web posted at: 8:11 p.m. EDT (0011 GMT)

DENVER (CNN) -- Survivors and victims' relatives shouted and cried with relief Monday after Timothy McVeigh was found guilty on all charges in the Oklahoma City bombing.

logoVictims Reaction - VXtreme streaming video

Reaction to guilty verdict
movie icon in Oklahoma City
(710K/18 sec. QuickTime movie)
movie iconin Denver
(862K/22 sec. QuickTime movie)

Survivors, victims' relatives

got him

"It's happy but sad. Your stomach just kind of turns in knots ... I'm just so pleased," said Charles Tomlin, whose son died in the April 19, 1995, attack on the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. He watched the case unfold in the courtroom.

"My son would be very proud that we got some justice for him," Tomlin said.

"I just looked up, and looked at my brother up in heaven" while waiting for the verdicts to be read, said Rudy Guzman, whose words were choked with sobs. He lost a brother in the attack that killed 168 people and injured hundreds.

Survivors hearing the verdict at the bomb site in Oklahoma City wore expressions of joyous incredulity as the word "guilty" echoed 11 times across the grounds.

Survivors and others planned to gather at a tree across from the bomb site for a closure ceremony Monday evening.

"Closure implies to me that you maybe get something back that you're looking for," said Dr. Paul Heath, president of the Murrah Bombing Survivors Group. "What it does do -- it answers who did it, and possibly why they did it."
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"This case put the justice system right back on track," Jim Denny, father of two children hurt in the explosion, told CNN immediately after the verdict.

More than anything, he said, he felt happy for the other families who suffered.
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"I felt like there were 168 smiles from up above," said Dan McKinney, who lost his wife in the blast.

Alice Denison, daughter of a bombing victim, said she had mixed emotions about what should happen to McVeigh now. She said the death sentence could prove the easy way out.

"Parts of me -- I want the death penalty, but how easy is that, a shot in the arm and you go to sleep. Another part of me kind of wants life, because ... I'm kind of torn there," Denison said.

Greg Leasure, brother of a bombing victim, said the trial marks a beginning of a resolution of so many deaths.

"Somebody's taken responsibility. I don't think all of them have been found (that's) my personal views, but at least there's a start," he said.

As with many others who still carry vivid, unspeakable images from the blast, William Baay was overcome with emotion after the verdict was announced.

Baay was working near the building at the time of the blast, and ran over to start digging into the rubble with his bare hands to try to rescue those trapped beneath.

"One of the ladies that I spoke with -- she was screaming and hollering, "I can't breathe," as she quit breathing," Baay recalled, shaking with sadness.
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Prosecution

Cheers went up outside the courthouse in Denver as news of the verdict was announced, and again as the prosecutors left the building. Although prosecution attorneys appeared flushed with excitement, smiling lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler motioned for the crowd to be quiet.

Hartzler

"All I want to say on behalf of the entire prosecution team and all the federal agencies that supported this prosecution: We thank the victims for their patience and dignity throughout this long ordeal," Hartzler said.

"We're obviously very pleased with the result. We always had confidence in our evidence -- now everyone else will have confidence in the evidence and the verdict. We're ready to move onto the next stage."

Defense

Lead defense attorney Stephen Jones, visibly subdued, told reporters he could not comment specifically on the verdict under the terms stipulated by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch. But he congratulated Hartzler, the other prosecutors and the FBI.

"We have visited with Mr. McVeigh," Jones said. "We will be working with him tonight and tomorrow for the preparation of the second stage on Wednesday. Beyond that I cannot say more."

Clinton

President Clinton waited for the verdicts at the White House.

"I cannot comment on the jury's verdict," he said in a statement. "But I will say that this is a very important and long overdue day for the survivors and families of those who died in Oklahoma City."

Clinton said he was particularly proud of the work done by Attorney General Janet Reno, the prosecutors, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Oklahoma governor

Keating

Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating praised the attorneys on both sides, and credited the prosecution with building a solid wall of evidence.

"It's a blizzard of emotions -- ecstasy and also agony that we had to go through this to start with," Keating told CNN.

"The agony that we went through needed to be redeemed, and needed to be recompensed, and that did occur and we're very happy that this part is over."

Asked about the penalty phase, Keating said he favors the death penalty. icon (281K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Courtroom atmosphere

The courtroom atmosphere was extremely tense as the jurors returned with their verdict, according to CNN national correspondent Tony Clark. None of them looked at McVeigh, who watched them with his chin resting on hands clasped together.

McVeigh smiled a little as he walked in and shook hands with his attorneys, but there was an apparent sense of foreboding among the defense team while the prosecution shook hands with victims' family members, Clark said.

McVeigh watched the judge as each verdict was announced, and a few jurors cast glances at him. Some family members of victims wiped tears from their eyes. McVeigh was then escorted from the courtroom by three federal marshals.

'They didn't prove it'

James Nichols, brother of alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols, said prosecutors did not prove their case against McVeigh, and the verdicts were a result of a government conspiracy.icon (363K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"This is based on emotion. Those jurors had a lot of pressure on them ... and public pressure changes people's minds," James Nichols said in an interview at home in Decker, Michigan.

Asked whether he thought McVeigh had nothing to do with the case, Nichols replied, "I didn't say that ... but they didn't prove it."

Nichols, who has been subpoenaed to testify in the penalty phase, described McVeigh as "a normal, decent guy ... I trust him to this very day with anything that I have."

 
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