Execution Date Set for McVeigh

Associated Press/November 2, 2000
By Richard Green

Oklahoma City - As the government set an execution date for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, survivors and relatives of those killed in the blast pondered what motivated McVeigh to drop his appeals.

Some speculate McVeigh wants to become a martyr for anti-government causes or wants to mock the government with a petition for clemency, knowing federal authorities haven't put anyone to death in nearly 40 years.

"I just feel like it's his way of controlling things right down to the very end," said Jeannine Gist, whose daughter died in the April 19, 1995, explosion.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons on Tuesday set a May 16 date for McVeigh to die by lethal injection.

McVeigh, 32, who is on death row at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., has said he doesn't plan any more appeals and last week allowed a deadline for resuming that process to expire. However, he has reserved the right to seek executive clemency.

"That's something Mr. McVeigh has under consideration," said his attorney, Nathan Chambers.

McVeigh has 30 days to file a petition for clemency with the Justice Department, which would make a recommendation to the president.

George W. Bush, who will be inaugurated Saturday, is a firm death penalty supporter. During his nearly six-year tenure as Texas governor, 152 inmates were put to death; only once did he use his power to stop an execution.

"If there is any individual who deserves the ultimate punishment, it is Timothy McVeigh, who forfeited his life the moment he detonated that deadly cargo he had brought to downtown Oklahoma City," Gov. Frank Keating said.

McVeigh was convicted of murder and conspiracy for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people and injured hundreds of others. It was the deadliest act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil.

Prosecutors said McVeigh, a decorated Gulf War veteran, was motivated by hatred of the U.S. government and a desire for revenge for the April 19, 1993, deaths of about 80 people in the cult disaster near Waco, Texas.

Terry Nichols was convicted separately and sentenced to life in prison. The federal government has not put a prisoner to death since 1963, when it executed Victor Feguer for murder and kidnapping.

Dozens of survivors and victims already have told prison officials they want to watch McVeigh die. Authorities said they will try to accommodate them, possibly through the use of closed-circuit television.

Betty Robins, who was working in the building at the time of the bombing, hopes McVeigh offers an explanation before his death. "He can be forgiven but he must pay restitution, and his death will be that restitution," she said. "I just wish he would tell people why before he dies and what he wanted to accomplish."

Kevin Acers, president of the Oklahoma City Chapter of Amnesty International, called the bombing "a terrible act of barbarity" but said the execution will only add to a climate of violence in this country.

"I don't believe that granting an execution date for Timothy McVeigh in any way compensates for the tragedy of his violent act, and I don't think that the federal government or the state government should be in the business of putting prisoners to death," he said.

McVeigh's father, retired Pendleton, N.Y., factory worker William McVeigh, has said that his son explained his decision to the family. He told The Buffalo News: "I guess his feeling is, he knows he's going to die - it might as well be sooner than later."

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