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Beyond McVeigh sentence: What lies ahead

prison June 13, 1997
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EDT (1230 GMT)

From Correspondent Terry Frieden

DENVER (CNN) -- The fate of Timothy McVeigh rested in the hands of jurors Friday, but his legal battles will stretch far beyond the Denver verdict.

If jurors sentence McVeigh to life in prison, the 29-year-old Gulf War veteran will serve his term in high- or maximum-security prisons without the possibility of parole.

McVeigh, as a federal prisoner convicted in Denver, will likely be confined first at the maximum-security correctional complex in Florence, Colorado. Justice Department officials, however, have not ruled out the possibility of a Colorado state prison.

Federal authorities also point out that they have seven other high-security federal prisons in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Kansas, and California where McVeigh could be housed.


In determining where a convict spends time, prison officials weigh many factors, including:

  • The nature of the crime
  • Prison overcrowdedness
  • Location of family
  • Access to attorneys handling the appeals process

Some veteran appellate lawyers predict McVeigh's appeals could take up to five years.

"It could take two or three years or longer on the appellate level for the first tier," said defense attorney Marvin Miller. "Then it could take a couple of years -- wouldn't have to but could --in the Supreme Court."

Death penalty possibilities

If McVeigh is sentenced to death, he could spend prison time on a state death row. Currently, all 12 other convicted killers under federal death sentences are housed on state facilities.

High Security Prison

If McVeigh's appeals are exhausted and the death sentence carried out, it could take place at the new, and yet to be used, federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. That decision is pending.

Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Florida, chairman of the House Crime Subcommittee, has pushed for all condemned federal prisoners to end up at the Indiana penitentiary.

"The legislation I'm proposing would clarify the method of execution would be lethal injection in every federal death penalty case, and that Terre Haute, Indiana, would be the place for that execution," he said.

Present laws state that federal death-row inmates should be executed by the method used in whatever state they are sentenced. The laws do not define where the executions should be carried out. Colorado and Oklahoma use lethal injection.

Meanwhile, the state of Oklahoma wants to try McVeigh on separate capital murder charges, assuring that McVeigh's courtroom drama in far from over.

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