Friday, May 25, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday said Justice Department attorneys had located and reviewed every missing document in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation and that he saw no reason to delay Timothy McVeighs scheduled June 11 execution.

During an afternoon press conference, Mr. Ashcroft said nothing in either the 3,135 documents the FBI initially acknowledged failing to turn over or the 898 found since in a massive, worldwide search “created any doubt” about McVeigh´s guilt.

“Fairness required that I delay the execution; justice now requires that we carry it out,” he said.

“Nothing in these documents provides a basis for believing the defendant to be innocent. Nothing undermines the conclusion or erodes the decision that he was guilty,” the attorney general said. “Nothing, I think, would change or undermine a conviction or understanding of the appropriateness of this sentence.”

Mr. Ashcroft declined to outline specifics of the missing documents, but said some involved photos from a swimsuit calendar from a person under psychiatric care, letters involving information about non-physical beings, offers by psychics to contact dead victims for information about the bombing, and a handwritten letter offering unspecified information in return for a cash reward.

Two weeks ago, the attorney general ordered McVeigh´s originally scheduled execution date of May 15 delayed after the FBI admitted it had not turned over documents required under the court´s discovery order, despite a dozen requests by prosecutors and FBI supervisors for a complete search for the records.

The delay was ordered to give McVeigh´s attorneys time to review the documents to determine if they contained any information that could force a new trial.

In addition to delaying the execution, Mr. Ashcroft also ordered the FBI to issue a worldwide alert to all of its offices to identify and produce any and all documents required under the discovery order. That effort ended yesterday, and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh certified that the search was complete and that every document had been produced.

Mr. Ashcroft also said that special agents in charge at every FBI field office also had certified that all documents pertaining to the McVeigh case had been turned over. The records then were reviewed by Justice Department attorneys and, at the same time, given to McVeigh´s attorneys.

The attorney general said he intends to proceed with the June 11 execution and that the Justice Department would “vigorously oppose” any effort to delay it.

“A second delay in this case would ignore the evidence and the facts in the case,” he said. “The American people can have confidence that all documents now have been identified and produced and that nothing in any of these documents undermines McVeigh´s admission of the murder of 168 of his fellow American citizens and nothing in the documents undermines the justice of his sentence.”

Currently on death row at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., McVeigh was convicted on June 2, 1997, in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 persons, including 19 children. On June 13, 1997, the same jury recommended death by lethal injection, which was ordered by a federal judge on Aug. 14, 1997.

McVeigh, who has since admitted to the bombing and described the deaths of the children as “collateral damage,” is said to be reviewing his options. He and his attorneys, Denver lawyers Nathan Chambers and Robert Nigh, have suggested the missing documents might provide evidence that would support a delay in the execution or overturn his conviction.

Mr. Ashcroft said Justice Department attorneys had reviewed all of the documents and were prepared to defend the McVeigh conviction and death sentence in court.

“We have had ample time to prepare and we believe this demonstrates clearly that the defense team has had ample time to defend Mr. McVeigh,” he said, adding that “no document created any doubt about his guilt, let alone established his innocence.”

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide