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Mother: McVeigh not a 'monster'

Jury could begin penalty deliberations Thursday

movie Latest developments: June 11, 1997
Web posted at: 6:37 p.m. EDT (2237 GMT)

DENVER (CNN) -- After emotional testimony from Timothy McVeigh's mother and father, the defense rested its case Wednesday in the penalty phase of the bombing trial.

Closing arguments in the case are to begin Thursday morning, and the jury could begin deliberations as early as Thursday afternoon.

At stake is whether the 29-year-old Gulf War veteran will be sentenced to life imprisonment or receive a lethal injection for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people.

Death penalty opponents planned a rally near the courthouse Wednesday, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver has lobbied for a life sentence, saying that an execution would only add to the violence.

Mildred Frazer made a tearful plea to the jury to spare her son's life, saying McVeigh is not a "monster. ... He is a human being."


"He was a loving son and happy child growing up, a child any mother could be proud of," she said. "I cannot believe he caused this devastation. He's not the monster he's been portrayed as."

Frazer, who left her husband and the family home when McVeigh was 10, said she could not imagine the pain and suffering experienced by the people of Oklahoma City.

"I understand the anger many people feel," she said, reading a prepared statement.

'I am pleading for my son's life'

But she begged the seven-man, five-woman jury to spare her son.

"I am pleading for my son's life," she said, weeping. "He is a human being, as we all are."

William McVeigh

McVeigh, looking sad and sorrowful, dabbed at one of his eyes with a finger as his mother spoke. One juror cried and another leaned forward as if to offer comfort.

The defense then played a 15-minute video of McVeigh's life, from his childhood in upstate New York until his return from the Gulf War in 1991. The movie was narrated by the defendant's father, William McVeigh, who testified that he still loves his son and wants him live.

Defense video of McVeigh's childhood

movie icon (2.6M/34 sec. Large frame QuickTime movie)
movie icon (1.2M/34 sec. Small frame QuickTime movie)

William McVeigh was shown a photograph taken in the family kitchen between 1989 and 1992 of himself and his son embracing and shaking hands.

"It's a happy Tim -- the Tim I remember most of my life," William McVeigh said. "He was good-natured, fun, always fun to be with, always in a good mood."

Prosecutors don't cross-examine parents

Defense attorney Richard Burr asked: "Is the Tim in this picture still alive for you?"

"I believe so," the elder McVeigh responded.

"Do you love the Tim in this picture?" Burr asked.

"I do," he said.

"Do you love the Tim in this courtroom?" the attorney pressed.

"I do," the father responded.

"Do you want him to stay alive?"

"I do."

Jennifer McVeigh

Prosecutors did not cross-examine either of McVeigh's parents.

After the defense rested its case in the four-day penalty phase, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch recessed court for the day after scheduling closing arguments for 8:30 a.m. Thursday (10:30 a.m. EDT).

"This is a heavy responsibility and you have to address the questions in an orderly way," Matsch told the jurors. "You are duty-bound to follow the law. Be careful about what you see and hear."

McVeigh shows 'human' side

Jannie Coverdale, who had two grandsons die in the bombing, was in the courtroom Wednesday and described McVeigh's parents' testimony as "painful" to hear.

Jannie Coverdale

...speaks about the decision the jury must make
icon AIFF or WAV(160 K / 9 sec. audio)
...speaks about McVeigh's parents
icon AIFF or WAV(288 K / 23 sec. audio)
"At least I know he's human."
icon AIFF or WAV(192 K / 14 sec. audio)

"If I was in their place, I would be begging for my son's life," she said, her voice cracking.

Asked about McVeigh's courtroom demeanor Wednesday, she said, "At least I know he's human."

Earlier, the wife of one of McVeigh's friends testified that the defendant was a likable, caring person who patiently listened to her problems and played with her daughter.

"He's a likable guy, he's full of fun. He's caring," Sheila Nicholas said, adding that she met McVeigh when he dropped in on his friend Kevin Nicholas in Michigan.

Prosecutor Larry Mackey cross-examined Nicholas only briefly, implying that her knowledge of McVeigh was superficial.

"Did he tell you that he stored explosives in your garage?" Mackey asked.

"No," she replied.

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