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Facing death, McVeigh is an opaque figure

McVeigh sketches

Defendant chuckles at testimony by Army buddies

June 8, 1997
Web posted at: 9:13 p.m. EDT (0113 GMT)

From Correspondent Susan Candiotti

DENVER (CNN) -- Even for those who have peered into his eyes, Timothy McVeigh has been a hard man to read.

There is the image of McVeigh as hateful demon, sustained by the oft-repeated video clip of his arrest, the Gulf War veteran wearing orange prison garb and staring impassively.

By contrast, McVeigh in court has taken care to project a softer image, with preppy shirts and khaki pants. Still, the hair remains short, cropped close in military style.

McVeigh was convicted last week of all counts in the Oklahoma City bombing. Jurors are hearing arguments on whether he should face the death penalty.

Jennifer McVeigh

His father William arrived in Denver Sunday and will testify this week in an attempt to save his son's life. The defense plans to call about 20 more witnesses starting Monday and will likely finish presenting its case Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. McVeigh's sister Jennifer will not testify, sources told CNN.

In court, McVeigh has begun to lighten up his attitude. The defendant smiled broadly when a former army pal recalled how McVeigh bested his squad for top gun honors. He laughed out loud when a former roommate revealed McVeigh used Garfield the Cat bed linens.

And he chuckled when a former neighbor said McVeigh used to eat like a horse. He even blushed when a fatherly neighbor sobbed, "I can't imagine him doing something like this."

It was the first time since his sister took the stand weeks earlier that McVeigh showed emotion.

He remained passive during days of heartbreaking testimony and gruesome pictures of bomb victims.

Branch Davidian fire

When Diane Leonard took the stand to testify about losing her husband, Don, a Secret Service Agent, she said she met McVeigh's eyes. "Maybe I was looking for some iota of remorse," she said.

Another victim's son said he too tried to read McVeigh's face. "I didn't see a monster," Todd McCarthy said. "I didn't see a demon that I had so many times seen. I saw a human being, and unfortunately it's a human being who did a very inhumane thing."

McVeigh's attorneys have told jurors there are two realities to their client: He's an engaging and affable young man, but he shifts into a fierce mood at the mention of the federal government's 1993 siege near Waco, Texas.

 
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