McVeigh Given Death Penalty

After the decision, James Blassengill and his wife Willie said they would pray for McVeigh's family.


DENVER: After deliberating for eleven hours, McVeigh's jury gathered in the Denver courtroom at 5:30 EDT on Friday and answered a series of questions assessing everything from his personal history to his culpability and intent in the Oklahoma bombing. They had voted on an excruciatingly long list of factors to reach their final choice: Life or death. In the end, the jury, standing one by one, affirmed that they had chosen the ultimate penalty: death by lethal injection. As McVeigh was escorted from the courtroom after the verdict, he turned to his family and appeared to mouth the words "it's all right." He then made the peace sign. Having been sentenced to death for the murders of eight federal employees, he will next stand trial in Oklahoma for killing 160 other people that day. As his appeals proceed, at least five years are likely to pass before he can be sent to Terre Haute, Indiana, site of the only federal execution chamber. For now, Dr. Paul Heath, leader of the Murrah Building Survivors Association, summed up his reaction to today's verdict: "Justice, justice, justice." -- Frank Pellegrini

Society Did It

Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson, left, leads the prosecution team into the U.S. Courthouse in Denver, Colorado.


DENVER: Taking one last, wild shot before jurors began deliberating Timothy McVeigh's punishment, his defense closed with the somewhat incredible argument that McVeigh didn't deserve to die because we were all to blame. "Aren't we all in some way implicated in this crime?" defense attorney Richard Burr asked, arguing that Americans let tyranny reign during the bloody sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge. "We all bear some responsibility for Oklahoma City," he said. "We should not feel a clear conscience if we kill Tim McVeigh." The tactic smacks of desperation, notes TIME's Adam Cohen. "Now they're just throwing everything they can at the wall to see what sticks. Ironically, this is a conservative twist on a very liberal, cliched argument -- it's not his fault, it's the way he was raised, it's society's fault. People in line with McVeigh, the right wing militia, would usually have no sympathy for this kind of argument." Worse, Cohen notes, having struck some sympathetic chords with jurors during Thursday's emotional testimony by McVeigh's parents: "There could be a backlash among the jury, whose reaction could be, 'Don't blame us for what he did'." That certainly held true outside the courtroom. "The Waco deal?" scoffed Charles Tomlin, who lost his grown son in the bombing. "They gave them 52 days to come out or do something. My son didn't even get 52 seconds to come out of the building that McVeigh blew up." -- Frank Pellegrini

Special Report: The Missouri 51st Militia

Preventing A Lynching

DENVER: Asserting that he does not want Timothy McVeigh's sentencing hearing to turn into "some kind of lynching," Judge Richard Matsch blocked the prosecution's plan to introduce some highly emotional material, including wedding photographs of victims and a fatherÕs poem about his dead child. Arguments centered on the federal Victims Rights Act, which allows crime victims to attend trials and testify about the crime's impact. The act was hastily shoved through Congress in March in response to Matsch's refusal to allow anyone who attended the trial to testify during its criminal phase. Though a federal appeals court upheld MatschÕs view that seeing the defendants in court could taint a victim's testimony, Congress effectively overrode the court by allowing victims to watch the trial on a closed-circuit television in Oklahoma City, and then testify if they wished during the punishment phase. Seeking to avoid a lengthy court fight that would have delayed the start of McVeigh's trial, Matsch bowed to Congress, but he still believes the law allows him to restrict any witness he thinks has been prejudiced by hearing testimony during the criminal phase of the trial. While a detailed list of those to be called has been sealed by the court, prosecutors are expected to use as many emotionally wrenching stories from victims as Matsch will allow. For the defense, the almost impossible task will be to convince jurors that although McVeigh was responsible for the deaths of eight federal agents -- a capital offense -- he doesn't deserve death by lethal injection. TIME's Patrick Cole reports that while it isnÕt known whether McVeigh will take the stand in his own defense, his father and sister are expected to testify. -- Mark Coatney

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Court TV transcripts of the trial

McVeigh Is Guilty

DENVER:Timothy McVeigh watched quietly as his jury walked into the courtroom. Jurors could not look him in the eye as he sat still with his hands clasped in front of him while the verdict was read: Guilty on all 11 counts in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. Guilty of using a weapon of mass destruction to kill people and destroy federal property. Guilty of using a weapon of mass destruction that caused death and injury. Guilty of one count of malicious destruction of federal property. Guilty of eight counts of murdering federal law enforcement officers. The jury had deliberated for nearly 24 hours over three days. After their decision was read, McVeigh stood up and shook hands with his attorney, Stephen Jones. He checked his watch, and then three federal marshals escorted the man convicted of the worst terrorist act ever on U.S. soil out of the building. Some 700 miles from the courtroom, where survivors and families watched the verdict on a closed-circuit video transmission at the Federal Aviation Building in Oklahoma City, cheers erupted as the verdict was announced. "It was a great relief, an emotional breakthrough," one said. But though the verdict brings closure, it's cold comfort to many who lost family members in the blast. "You heard most all of them clap. I couldn't do that because McVeigh has put us through so much and now," said Bud Welch, whose 23-year-old daughter Julie died in the bombing. "I really can't put it in words my emotions. I thought it'd all be joy, but it isn't. A very dull victory. The bottom line is my little girl isn't coming back and I have the rest of my life to deal with that." -- Mark Coatney

Only The Beginning

DENVER:The verdict concludes the first of several trials that arise from the bombing. As for McVeighÕs punishment, jurors on Wednesday will begin hearings that could take as long as two weeks to determine whether he should get the death penalty. The defense has not tipped its strategy for that phase, but Jones may ask the jury to consider McVeigh's youth and the fact that he served his country during the Gulf War. Another possible tactic: Put McVeigh, who did not testify during the trial, on the stand to appeal for mercy. Because Judge Matsch has put lawyers for both sides under a gag order, Jones would not comment on the future of the case, but he is expected to appeal Monday's verdict. No matter what the sentence, the trial just concluded concerned only the 8 federal employees killed in the blast. Oklahoma state officials will now charge McVeigh with the deaths of the 160 others who died that day. Meanwhile, the federal case will continue in August, when opening arguments are expected to begin in the trial of Terry Nichols, the man the government says was McVeigh's co-conspirator. -- Mark Coatney