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Life or death? McVeigh jury about to decide

McVeigh photo in military Latest developments: June 12, 1997
Web posted at: 8:43 a.m. EDT (1243 GMT)

DENVER (CNN) -- The day after hearing emotional pleas to spare the life of mass murderer Timothy McVeigh, jurors on Thursday were to hear closing arguments in the penalty phase of the Oklahoma City bombing case.

Deliberations were to follow, with the 12-member panel to decide whether McVeigh should die by injection or spend the rest of his life in prison.

The defense rested on Wednesday in the case of the 29-year-old Gulf War veteran convicted for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people.

Earlier, jurors heard a tearful plea from McVeigh's mother, Mildred Frazer, who said her son 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.

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)

'I am pleading for my son's life'

McVeigh's father sketch

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."

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 his son to live.

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?"

William McVeigh

"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."

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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