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Defense set to plea for McVeigh's life

Defendant could testify

June 6, 1997
Web posted at: 8:58 a.m. EDT (1258 GMT)

Latest developments:

DENVER (CNN) -- Prosecutors were expected to wrap up their case Friday in the penalty phase of the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh. Defense attorneys were to follow, giving their arguments as to why the defendant's life should be spared.

The defense is expected to argue that McVeigh was clouded by misguided patriotism when he committed the deadliest terrorist act on U.S. soil. Among those expected to testify are relatives of McVeigh, former teachers and military officials who were to describe the influences that shaped the defendant's anti-government views.

McVeigh can testify in the penalty phase, but it was not immediately clear if the defense planned to put him on the stand.

Friday's events follow two days of gut-wrenching testimony from victims' relatives, rescuers and survivors of the blast. Their accounts frequently brought jurors and courtroom observers to tears.

Victim's wife Diane Leonard describes McVeigh's demeanor in the courtroom
She did not see remorse
(213 K / 18 sec. audio)
She thought McVeigh would look away
(77 K / 6 sec. audio)

Father-to-be for one day

Mike Lenz on Thursday told jurors he saw his unborn son on an ultrasound machine and gave him a name the day before the bombing. The next day, the blast ripped through Lenz's happy life, killing his wife, Carrie, and Michael James Lenz III, the son he never met.

"In one fell swoop, I went from being a husband and a daddy to realizing it was all gone," Lenz said. "I lost everything."

The jury hearing the death penalty arguments is the same one that convicted McVeigh on Monday of murder and conspiracy in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. The attack killed 168 people and injured hundreds of others.

'I prayed she wouldn't die'

A surgeon who risked his life to climb deep into the rubble to help a woman told the court Thursday 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.

jury sketch

Graphic images with narration

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."

VXtreme logo CNN's Susan Candiotti reports: OKC bombing victims recount the horror - VXtreme streaming video

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."

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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