- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2001

The decision by Attorney General John Ashcroft to grant a temporary stay of execution to convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as a result of this weeks embarrassing last-minute revelation by the FBI that it had failed to turn over reams of documents relevant to the bombers legal defense says a great deal about the integrity and principle of the attorney general. At the same time, it calls to the publics attention the astonishing bumbling of the FBI, whose egregious conduct in this matter is alone to blame for any further anguish suffered by McVeighs victims who must now wait another 30 days, at least, for the justice they have long sought.

Mr. Ashcroft really had little choice. To continue with next Wednesday´s scheduled execution of McVeigh would only have guaranteed paranoid charges of a "cover-up" or "conspiracy" by the government to deny McVeigh his day in court. With so much fear and suspicion swirling about the events of April 19, 1995 and the previous fiasco at Waco, Texas, that by his own account precipitated McVeigh´s decision to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in retaliation it´s crucially important to let all the facts be aired. And it´s entirely possible that additional information regarding not merely McVeigh and his role in this atrocity may come to light for instance, details about peripheral and supporting characters in this drama, such as McVeigh´s accomplice Terry Nichols. Nichols is currently serving life in prison for his conviction on conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter charges related to the bombing.

The decision to grant a 30-day stay of execution for the convicted mass murderer is not so much about avoiding a "rush to judgment" as conspiracy theorists might describe it but rather an attempt to avoid the perception that anything of the kind has occurred. To that end, Mr. Ashcroft is to be lauded for his prudence and wisdom.

Still, one cannot help but sympathize with those who lost family members and friends in the bombing. The Associated Press, for example, quoted Kathleen Treanor, whose 4-year-old daughter and in-laws were among the 168 men, women and children killed in the blast: "I´m appalled," she said of the FBI´s Keystone Cop-like conduct. The bureau "… knew from the very beginning that this was a huge case. How could they possibly have made a mistake this huge?" Another victim, Aren Almon Kok, added that "For someone to make this mistake … to find them less than a week before he dies … is unbelievably unfair."

Quite so. The FBI´s slipshod handling of this matter is both difficult to fathom and incredibly unfair, to everyone concerned, even to McVeigh himself. The pile is substantial, on the order of 3,135 documents, as well as numerous photocopies of physical evidence, audio tapes and photographs. Mr. Ashcroft indicated there will be an internal investigation to discover just how this much stuff could get lost, then reappear days before a man is slated to be put to death and who is responsible for this mess.

Neither the Justice Department nor even McVeigh´s legal team believes the documents will exonerate him he has after all confessed to the crime. However, that is beside the point, as the statement by the Justice Department that accompanied news of the temporary stay revealed. "While the department is confident the documents do not in any way create any reasonable doubt about McVeigh´s guilt and do not contradict his repeated confessions of guilt, the department is concerned that McVeigh´s attorneys were not able to review them at the appropriate time," it says.

No matter what one may justifiably believe about the propriety of sending the black soul of Timothy McVeigh to meet his Maker, in a country governed by the rule of law, it is necessary that the system be allowed to function and that all processes be followed. McVeigh is entitled to all the rights and protections afforded him under our laws and that includes the right to review any and all the evidence.

Besides, he is not going anywhere and will have another month to contemplate the nightmare he visited upon so many innocents.

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