TML> CNN - The man who will defend Timothy McVeigh - Aug. 5, 1996
Oklahoma City Tragedy

The man who will defend Timothy McVeigh

August 5, 1995

From CNN Correspondent Susan Candiotti

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (CNN) -- The Oklahoma City bombing trial is a long way off, but lawyers for both sides are already hard at work preparing their cases.

One of them is Stephen Jones, the man appointed to represent suspected terrorist Timothy McVeigh. For Jones, yet another high profile case in a career that's been full of them.

A straw hat is the first sign Stephen Jones likes to be a little different. The second is where he chooses to practice. Not in the state capital of Oklahoma City, but in Enid, a small community nearly two hours away.

Then again, Jones, appointed to represent suspected terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh, seems to relish his reputation. I tell him what people say about him. "It's said that you're the Oklahoma lawyer people love to hate." Jones replies, "I suppose that's true. I'm not really likely to change."

Nor does he want to. The self-described "pack-rat" has walls of mementos recalling three decades of controversial cases. "This was a case that caught so much attention, it got me terminated from the law firm where I worked," he says as he points.

In 1970, Jones represented a young man who carried a Vietcong flag in an anti-war march at Oklahoma University. It was the day after the Kent State shootings. "The case was dismissed," he remembers.

Jones also took on the cause of Yippie Abbie Hoffman, defending his right to speak on a college campus. He got armed robbery charges dismissed against a black Muslim leader years ago. And is currently defending a reviled Oklahoma death row inmate.

In the political arena, he worked for Richard Nixon during Watergate. I asked him what he admired most about President Nixon. " I'd say his intellect."

He has also represented Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating. Now, he's defending Oklahoma's, and perhaps the country's, most notorious suspect.

I ask, "Why did you take on this case?"

"I have, throughout my professional career, believed it was a lawyer's duty to defend unpopular cases."

Jones doesn't always like to lose but voters have turned him down three times. when he ran for state attorney general and the House and U.S. Senate. "As 'Mo' Udall once said, 'The people have spoken... stupid bastards!' I probably shouldn't have said that but it's, nevertheless, true."

His serious side comes to discussing McVeigh. His defense team is busy strategizing. "The world is looking at Oklahoma City. If there is an international perception that our client is being railroaded, or that there is a rush to judgment, not only will Oklahoma suffer, but the United States will suffer."

Just as McVeigh has been receiving letters, some favorable, others no, so has Jones. But none like the one expressing understanding of why Jones is defending McVeigh.

Jones says he got it from the father of a child critically injured in the blast. "It shows enormous compassion and strength of character that is admirable and I'm not certain that I would have the same strength if the situation was reversed."

Strength is what Jones will need as he tackles what appears to be his most controversial case yet.



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