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McVeigh jury hears gory testaments of life, death

McVeigh June 5, 1997
Web posted at: 11:32 p.m. EDT (0332 GMT)

Latest developments:

  • Graphic images with narration
  • Face resembled 'fresh-stitched meat'
  • Father-to-be for one day
  • McVeigh breaks smile at brief humor
  • Oklahoma readies its case
  • Related stories

    DENVER (CNN) -- Jurors looked pained and dried tears for a second day Thursday as rescuers and survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing shared horrific details of their wounds and experiences.

    The testimony comes in the penalty phase in the trial of Timothy McVeigh, convicted of murder and conspiracy in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 168 people and injured hundreds.

    A surgeon who risked his life to climb deep into the rubble to help a woman told the court how she kicked and screamed as he amputated her leg without benefit of painkillers.


    "I was very concerned I would kill this lady," said Dr. Andrew Sullivan, an orthopedic surgeon and a University of Oklahoma professor.

    "I prayed. I prayed she wouldn't die as a result of my treatment. And that if I died, my family would remember me."

    Sullivan told jurors how he climbed down ladders to the basement, and then had to crawl through the rubble to reach Daina Bradley, who was lying in about 6 inches of water in the smoky darkness. Her leg was pinned beneath a huge concrete beam.

    As he attempted to tie a rope around her leg there was an alert about a second bomb. "I scurried out and we ran," he said. "She screamed, 'Don't leave me, don't leave me! I'm going to die.' It was gut-wrenching. You don't leave someone who's going to die."

    The surgeon returned 45 minutes later -- there was no second bomb -- and he counseled Bradley about amputation.

    Sullivan said he had to lie on top of Bradley and, though right-handed, had to use his left hand for the operation. Rescuers tried to pull her out twice before the surgery was completed.

    Describing how the concrete had dulled his surgical instruments, he brought gasps from the courtroom when he told of his final surgical improvisation: "I completed the amputation with a pocket knife."

    McVeigh, as he had throughout the trial, sat expressionless.

    The jury had met Bradley, whose mother and two children were killed in the blast, when she was called as a defense witness in the first part of the trial.

    Graphic images with narration

    The prosecution is trying to persuade the seven-man, five-woman jury to sentence McVeigh to death. It has presented 34 witnesses in the penalty phase, and planned to finish presenting its case Friday.

    The defense will then take its turn to ask for leniency. The jury could begin penalty deliberations next week.


    The jury was presented with a series of photographs of wounds suffered by bombing survivors. The pictures showed backs pockmarked by flying glass, eye sockets crushed and bruised, faces disfigured by palsy and necks scarred by ripped jugular veins.

    Oklahoma epidemiologist Sue Mallonee gave a narration that included observations such as:

    "He still has glass embedded in his back."

    "Her right ear was torn away from her scalp."

    "She had a large door knob embedded in the back of her head."

    Face resembled 'fresh-stitched meat'

    The prosecution then called a number of survivors, rescue workers and victims' loved ones.

    Susan Urbach was in the nearby Journal Record newspaper building when the bomb exploded. She realized that she was struck on the head when the ceiling and walls collapsed, but did not realize how badly she was hurt.

    Urbach recalled how people watched her with "horrid fascination" as she picked her way out of the building. She later discovered that her face, neck and back had been severely cut by flying glass.

    She recounted the first time she saw herself in the hospital mirror, and it looked like "fresh-stitched meat." But Urbach, a smiling, boisterous woman, described her scar as a sign of healing and her "badge of honor."

    Father-to-be for one day

    Michael Lenz Jr. told the jury how he learned that his wife Carrie, who worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency, was pregnant with a boy on April 18. The next day, she was killed in the bombing.

    "In one fell swoop, I went from being a husband and a daddy to realizing it was all gone ... Nobody's coming home. Nobody's going to be in the driveway," he said.

    Lenz said he got to the point where he was considering suicide. "I stuck a pistol in my mouth. I couldn't pull the trigger, thank God ... There's nothing more dangerous than a man who has no reason to live. I've been there."

    McVeigh breaks smile at brief humor

    In an unusual scene, McVeigh joined the rest of the people in the courtroom in chuckling at a quip by a bombing survivor whose head was smashed in.

    Clifford Cagle, 49, who lost an eye and is left with one side of his face drooped, drew laughs when he joked that his Air Force career lasted "21 years, one month and 19 days."

    But the former Housing and Urban Development employee lost an eye, had the left side of his face crushed and a hole in his skull, and suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome. He had to take disability retirement, cutting his pay in half.

    Among the worst consequence of the bombing, he said, tears streaming from his remaining eye, was "my grandson having to see me like this."

    U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch excluded the testimony of a 9-year-old boy whose mother was killed in the bombing as too inflammatory.

    Oklahoma readies its case

    Oklahoma officials, meantime, prepared its "safety-net" case against both McVeigh and his accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols.

    Oklahoma City District Attorney Robert Macy was consulting with the FBI on strategy to ensure McVeigh might still face the death penalty, if the federal jury decides on a life sentence or if its verdicts are overturned on appeal.

    Macy said he planned to submit the case to a grand jury and would be ready to go to trial as early as October if Nichols' federal trial is over by then.  

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