McVeigh defense focuses on Waco rage
Defense near resting in trial's penalty phaseJune 10, 1997
Web posted at: 3:12 p.m. EDT (1912 GMT)
DENVER (CNN) -- Timothy McVeigh's lawyers, trying to make jurors understand his rage over Waco, brought a Soldier of Fortune magazine editor back to the stand Tuesday to testify that the government knew women and children were in the Branch Davidian compound.
The defense said it may complete its case on Tuesday as it tries to persuade the jury to spare McVeigh's life. The same jury last week convicted McVeigh of murder and conspiracy in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
After the defense rests, there could be a short prosecution rebuttal, followed by closing arguments.
Revenge for Waco?
The proceedings began with a resumption of testimony from James Pate, a writer for Soldier of Fortune whose anti-government articles on the 1993 FBI raid of the Branch Davidians cult compound near Waco, Texas, influenced McVeigh's political beliefs, according to the defense.
About 80 people died in fire that destroyed the compound on April 19, 1993, exactly two years before the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
Pate, the national affairs editor for Soldier of Fortune, detailed a series of articles he wrote on the aftermath of Waco, and on people who thought they had received unfair treatment from the government.
In an article that appeared the first week of April 1995 titled "No Peace Without Justice," Pate wrote that federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents planned the attack on the Branch Davidians.
Pate said the article was based on numerous confidential documents obtained from military sources that detailed the planning and revealed "they knew women and children were there."
He said many people who travel the gun-show circuit, like McVeigh, believe the Branch Davidians were attacked by the ATF in a raid to arrest one man, and the agents "recklessly endangered the lives of women and children."
Prosecutors contended McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to avenge the siege at Waco and to spark a second American Revolution.
Still to come: McVeigh video
Earlier, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled that "Day 51," a videotape on the 51-day siege at Waco, could be shown to jurors. "If this is something that was seen by Mr. McVeigh it can come in in its entirety," Matsch ruled.
He also allowed the defense to admit a revised affidavit from McVeigh listing the articles he read on the subject.
The defense will wrap up its case with live and taped testimony from McVeigh's father. William McVeigh narrated a 15-minute videotape made using home movies and other material documenting his son's childhood years.
The tape is compelling, sources say, but attorney David Lane suggests the strategy could backfire in a case about an attack that victimized so many families.
"There are fathers that aren't going to get the opportunity to stand up anywhere and talk about the fun they had with their kids on picnics," Lane said.
McVeigh's sister won't testify
McVeigh's sister, Jennifer, was back in the courtroom Tuesday but will not be called to testify on his behalf during the trial's penalty phase.
If she took the stand, sources said, her cross-examination by the government could be devastating. For example, prosecutors could ask her about conversations with her brother, which were not brought up when she testified during the guilt phase of the trial.
"She would be asked about things very unsympathetic about him," said CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren. "For instance, his hatred of the federal government, which is what the prosecution said was the motive behind this killing."
But such a strategy has drawbacks, Lane said. Jurors may wonder "how good a guy can he be if his own sister is testifying against him and doesn't come into the penalty phase and beg for his life," Lane told CNN.
Publicly, the Jones said Jennifer McVeigh's testimony is not needed because other witnesses will "take the stand and say basically the same thing (she would have said)."
Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.
T H E B O M B I N G / C N N S T O R I E S / L I N K S
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