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Eyewitness Eric McGown tells the jury in the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that he saw McVeigh in the parking lot of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, three times during the weekend before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). McGown’s mother Lea owns and manages the motel. McGown says he first saw McVeigh in a 1977 Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), then backing up a Ryder rental truck, and finally closing the tailgate of the truck. McGown becomes flustered under cross-examination by McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, and admits that he is not sure whether he saw the truck on April 16 or April 17, the day prosecutors say McVeigh rented the Ryder truck that carried the bomb. [New York Times, 5/9/1997]
Prosecutors in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) use a number of witnesses to establish a timeline leading up to McVeigh’s rental of a Ryder truck (under the alias “Robert D. Kling”—see Mid-March, 1995) that, they say, he used to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building (see April 15, 1995). Eldon Elliott, the owner of the Junction City, Kansas, truck rental agency that rented McVeigh the truck (see February 19, 1997), identifies McVeigh as the truck renter “Kling.” McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, presses Elliott to admit that he does not remember what McVeigh was wearing the day he rented the truck, though Elliott maintains he remembers McVeigh quite clearly. Jones notes that in his initial statement to the FBI, Elliott told investigators that “Kling” was either 5’10” or 5’11” “or a little taller,” whereas McVeigh is 6’1”. Other witnesses show that a Junction City taxi took a passenger identified as McVeigh from a shopping center near the Dreamland Motel to a McDonald’s restaurant on April 17; McVeigh was staying at the Dreamland on that day (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) under the alias “Robert Kling.” Security photographs from the Junction City McDonald’s show a man closely resembling McVeigh buying a meal, and, in court, the McDonald’s manager identifies McVeigh as the customer. Prosecutors say McVeigh was in Junction City that afternoon without a car because he had parked his car the night before in Oklahoma City to use for his getaway after the blast. Another witness says he delivered an order of Chinese food ordered by “Kling” to Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel during the time McVeigh stayed in that room, though under cross-examination he says the man who accepted the food was not McVeigh. Perhaps the most memorable witness is Marife Nichols, the Filipina bride of McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see July - December 1990). She testifies that McVeigh had stayed with her and her husband in their Marion, Kansas, home for a few days in September 1994 (see (September 30, 1994)). She testifies that on April 16, 1995, her family’s dinner was interrupted by a telephone call; her husband then left the house and did not return until the following morning. Prosecutors say that Terry Nichols drove 220 miles from their house in Herington, Kansas, to Oklahoma City, where he picked up McVeigh after McVeigh had stashed his car for his planned getaway (see April 16-17, 1995). Press reports have alleged (see February 28 - March 4, 1997) that McVeigh and Marife Nichols had an affair during the summer of 1994; lawyers do not broach the subject during the trial. [CNN, 5/9/1997; New York Times, 5/10/1997; New York Times, 5/16/1997] Marife Nichols will confirm the affair in 2004. [New York Times, 4/9/2004]
One of the star witnesses for the prosecution in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), McVeigh’s close friend Michael Fortier (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), testifies. Fortier’s wife Lori has testified previously (see April 29-30, 1997). She received a grant of immunity, and Fortier himself pled guilty to reduced charges in return for his cooperation (see May 19, 1995). Far from being boisterous and disrespectful during the trial as he once claimed he would be (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), Fortier is somber and repentant. Fortier testifies that he and McVeigh “cased” the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City several months before McVeigh bombed it (see December 16, 1994 and After), and says that McVeigh bombed the building “to cause a general uprising in America.” McVeigh originally planned to bomb the building around 11 a.m. because, Fortier testifies, “everybody would be getting ready for lunch.” Fortier says he expressed his concern that the bombing would kill many people, and McVeigh replied that he “considered all those people to be as if they were storm troopers in the movie Star Wars. They may be individually innocent, but because they are part of the evil empire they were guilty by association.” Fortier says that he sent off for a mail-order identification kit that McVeigh used to make a false driver’s license for himself. Fortier admits that he knew for months of McVeigh’s plans (see September 13, 1994 and After and September 13, 1994), and that he could have prevented the bombing with a single telephone call to law enforcement authorities: “I live with that knowledge every day,” he says. Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler asks Fortier why he did not make the call. Fortier replies that he has no excuse except his friendship with McVeigh, saying: “I’d known Tim for quite a while. If you don’t consider what happened in Oklahoma, Tim is a good person.” Fortier recalls going with McVeigh to Oklahoma City, where they examined the Murrah Building, and McVeigh considered a number of alternatives for delivering the bomb (see December 16, 1994 and After). Fortier testifies as to the location of the alley that McVeigh said he would use to stash his getaway car; investigators found the key to McVeigh’s rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) in that alley. The trip also involved going to Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh sold a number of stolen weapons (see November 5, 1994) in what prosecutors say was an effort to finance the bombing. Fortier testifies, “He told me they picked that building because that was where the orders for the attack on Waco came from,” referring to the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He told me—he also told me that he was wanting to blow up a building to cause a general uprising in America hopefully that would knock some people off the fence into—and urge them into taking action against the federal government.” At one point, testifying about his involvement in the case driving his father into having a nervous breakdown, Fortier weeps on the stand. McVeigh lived with the Fortiers several times in the years leading up to the bombing (see May-September 1993 and February - July 1994), he testifies. He recalls receiving a letter from McVeigh (see September 13, 1994) in which, he says: “Tim told me that him and Terry Nichols had decided to take some type of positive offensive action. He wanted to know if I wanted to partake of it.” A week later, McVeigh came back to Kingman and, Fortier recalls, “we had a conversation near my fence in my front yard. Tim was telling me what he meant by taking action. He told me that he—him and Terry were thinking of blowing up a building. He asked me to help them. I turned him down.” Later in 1994, Fortier testifies, McVeigh asked him to rent a storage locker for him somewhere outside Kingman, but Fortier told McVeigh he could not find one. A few days after that, Fortier testifies, McVeigh and Nichols came to Kingman and rented a storage locker themselves (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). Soon after, McVeigh and Nichols showed Fortier the contents of the locker—about a dozen boxes of explosives that McVeigh said they had stolen from a quarry in Kansas (see October 3, 1994). Just before October 31, 1994, Fortier testifies, “Tim said that him and Terry had chosen a federal building in Oklahoma City” and showed him how he could “make a truck into a bomb.” Under cross-examination, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, lambasts Fortier as a liar, a thief, a drug addict, and an opportunist who had initially tried to profit from his knowledge of the bombing, playing the audiotapes of Fortier’s bluster and bragging as captured on government wiretaps (see After May 6, 1995). Fortier admits to lying to the FBI in his initial interviews. Jones does not shake Fortier from his statements about McVeigh, though he does elicit a statement from Fortier that Nichols had withdrawn from the bomb plot in the final days of preparation (see March 1995). [New York Times, 5/13/1997; New York Times, 5/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 286-287]
Fingerprint expert Louis G. Hupp, a forensic scientist for the FBI, testifies at the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that no fingerprints belonging to McVeigh were found in many of the places where prosecutors say McVeigh prepared for the Oklahoma City bombing. Hupp has appeared twice before in the trial, testifying for the prosecution. Today he makes his admission under cross-examination from McVeigh’s defense lawyers. No prints belonging to McVeigh were found on the rental contract for the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995), in the truck rental office, or in the Kansas motel room where McVeigh was staying at the time the truck was rented (see April 13, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Neither were McVeigh’s prints found on any of the storage lockers he used to store explosives before the blast (see September 22, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994), or in the pickup truck prosecutors say co-conspirator Terry Nichols used to drive to Oklahoma City to meet McVeigh three days before the bombing (see April 16-17, 1995). Hupp says it is not unusual to have found none of McVeigh’s fingerprints at the various locations, as many chemicals used to find fingerprints depend on the presence of perspiration in the fingers. If there is no perspiration, he testifies, it is often likely that no prints will be found. Hupp says he found prints belonging to Nichols on a motel registration card signed by “Joe Kyle,” one of Nichols’s aliases (see October 16, 1994 and October 17, 1994), and on two money orders used to pay for a telephone debit card that prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh used in their preparations for the bombing (see May 6-7, 1997). Hupp also testifies that after McVeigh was taken into custody (see April 21, 1995), he inventoried and sealed a box of McVeigh’s belongings taken from him by authorities at the Perry, Oklahoma, jail. He took the box to Washington, DC. [New York Times, 5/16/1997]
FBI forensic expert Steven G. Burmeister and chemist Ronald L. Kelly testify in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that the FBI crime lab found residues of explosives on McVeigh’s shirt and jeans, clothing that McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested less than 90 minutes after allegedly detonating a bomb in front of an Oklahoma City federal building (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995). However, Burmeister says his experts found no such residues in the car McVeigh was driving when he was arrested. Nor did they find any such residues in a Kansas storage locker that prosecutors say McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols used to store bomb supplies (see September 22, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994). Prosecutors use Burmeister’s testimony to establish the exact composition of the bomb. Lab experts found residue of three substances on earplugs McVeigh was carrying when he was arrested (see Early May 1995 and After): nitroglycerine; PETN, a crystalline substance found in detonation cord; and EGDN, which is added to dynamite. PETN was also found on the white T-shirt and long-sleeved undershirt McVeigh was wearing when he was stopped by a state trooper, and PETN and nitroglycerine were found in the right pocket of McVeigh’s jeans. McVeigh’s lawyers cross-examine the two about a search they performed in the aftermath of the bombing; the two experts found and bagged items, including two fragments of the Ryder rental truck that prosecutors say carried the bomb (see April 15, 1995). One was a red-and-yellow piece of the truck body, which Burmeister later determined contained crystals of the explosive ammonium nitrate. Prosecutors say the bomb was composed of ammonium nitrate, a substance often used as fertilizer but which can become a powerful explosive when mixed with fuel oil or racing fuel. Burmeister testifies that such a bomb would require a detonator and an explosive such as dynamite to boost the explosion. Kelly admits to picking up and bagging several items, including a truck part, before an FBI photographer could take pictures of them; Kelly says he replaced the items, let the photographer take pictures, and rebagged them. Defense lawyer Christopher L. Tritico indirectly accuses Kelly of planting evidence. “You didn’t find it in the parking lot, yourself, isn’t that right?” Tritico asks, to which Kelly replies, “That is absolutely incorrect.” Defense lawyers hammer away at the two over reports that the FBI crime lab had been criticized by a Justice Department report on its use of substandard procedures (see April 16, 1997), but Burmeister emphasizes that he, Kelly, and the other technicians were extremely careful about their evidence retrieval and testing. McVeigh’s lawyers elicit an admission from Burmeister that no PETN or EGDN was found at the scene of the bombing. Burmeister also admits that the crime lab’s handling of the bombing evidence could have been better, citing the practice of using paper bags to transport McVeigh’s clothing from the Perry jail to the FBI lab. Judge Richard P. Matsch limits the scope of the defense’s attack on the lab’s evidence handling, and repeatedly refuses to allow the jury to hear criticisms of the crime lab’s procedures issued by former lab employee Frederic Whitehurst (see January 27, 1997); nor does he allow the defense to introduce the Justice Department report. The last witness of the day, Linda Jones of the British Ministry of Defense’s Forensic Explosives Laboratory, testifies that “it would be fairly simple” for one person to build such a bomb as was used in Oklahoma City, challenging the defense’s theory that only a large number of conspirators and bomb experts could have built the bomb. [New York Times, 5/20/1997; New York Times, 5/21/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) rests its case on an emotional note after having presented 137 witnesses. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The government presented what many legal analysts call a masterful case, moving far more quickly than anticipated and using witnesses to establish a string of facts that paint a strong picture of McVeigh’s guilt. The prosecution ends on a powerfully emotional note, presenting a number of first responders and survivors. Florence Rogers, a credit union employee who worked in the Murrah Federal Building, tells the jury of the moment when she lost seven of her co-workers in the bomb blast. She recalls the bomb going off with a “torrnado-like rush.” She was thrown to the floor, she recalls, and, she says, “everything else was gone.” Mike Shannon, chief of special operations for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, uses a diagram to show the jury how the bomb took an enormous “bite” from the north face of the building, and to show where rescuers finally freed the last survivor, 15-year-old Brandy Ligons, over 12 hours after the bombing. “To climb into” the area where Ligons was trapped, Shannon testifies, “it took people lying on their stomach, taking debris, pushing it down under their belly down between their legs. The second person would lay his head on the first person’s bottom and take that debris and pass it between his legs, and they would work their way into the pile. It was just big enough for just one person to wiggle through.” Dangling over Ligons and the rescuers was a 40,000-pound slab of concrete, ready to fall and crush everyone involved. Shannon testifies as to the difficulties of rescuing victims and removing the dead from a building whose front had pancaked into a heap of rubble. The effect was “like squeezing grapes,” he says. “Body fluids were dripping through, and it would just drip onto your gear as you were crawling through, onto your helmet.” Responder Alan Prokop tells jurors of the hand that rose from the rubble of the devastated building and grasped his, a hand belonging to a woman trapped under a huge slab of concrete. Prokop held her hand and felt her slowly die while rescuers tried vainly to free her. He recalls hearing the sound of what he thought was running water, and tells of a fellow rescuer saying, “It isn’t water, Alan, it’s blood.” Dr. Frederick B. Jordan, the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner, presents the jury with 163 death certificates for those who died in the bombing. He tells the jury how some of the victims were identified using the mangled remains of their bodies: a fingerprint from a resident alien card, a print taken from a box of Clairol hair coloring agent from a victim’s home, a scar on a little girl’s arm. The prosecution never mentions a contention by a federal grand jury that McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the truck bomb at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995); indeed, the prosecution does not attempt to prove how or where the bomb was built. The prosecution does not introduce a letter written by Nichols on November 21, 1994 that advised McVeigh to clean out two storage lockers (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). After the prosecution rests, defense lawyer Stephen Jones moves for a summary acquittal, a motion rejected by Judge Richard P. Matsch. However, the judge says he may delete some portions of the indictment before giving the jury its final instructions. Those portions include references to the purchase of bomb components, the rental of some storage units, the construction of the truck bomb at the Kansas lake, and the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer used to finance the bombing, another instance not cited by the prosecution (see November 5, 1994). “I had in mind some redaction of the indictment, or perhaps even more substantial changes, before submitting it to the jury,” Matsch says after the jury is excused for the day. “I think we’ll deal with it at the instructions conference as the most appropriate time.” [New York Times, 5/22/1997; Washington Post, 5/22/1997; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] Legal analyst Andrew Cohen will say that the prosecutors did not “bore” the jury with a morass of technical details, instead moving swiftly through technical testimony and pacing their witnesses so that each day ended with the emotional testimony of a victim or family member. Law professor Christopher Mueller says after the prosecution rests: “[T]his is a trial the way a trial ought to look.… I think the prosecution has presented a very strong, almost compelling case. The biggest payoff is in the abandonment of much of the scientific proof that would have been enormously distracting” to the jury. [Washington Post, 5/22/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997]
Entity Tags: Florence Rogers, Andrew Cohen, Alan Prokop, Christopher Mueller, Brandy Ligons, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones, Richard P. Matsch, Mike Shannon, Frederick B. Jordan, Terry Lynn Nichols, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The defense for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) opens with the suggestion that the “real” bomber was killed in the explosion. The assertion hinges on a severed leg found in the debris of the Murrah Federal Building (see August 7, 1995 and February 21, 1996). The leg has been identified as belonging to Airman Lakesha Levy, who died in the explosion, but medical examiners had put a leg not belonging to Levy with the rest of her body; that leg remains unidentified. McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, opens with testimony from Dr. Frederick Jordan, Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner, who tells the jury that the left leg originally assigned to Levy remains unidentified. It had already been embalmed, he testifies, rendering DNA identification impossible. “We have one left leg that we do not know where it belongs,” he says. Jones then places Dr. T.K. Marshall on the stand. Marshall, the former chief medical examiner in Northern Ireland who has extensive experience with autopsies of bombing victims, says he believes that the leg belongs to a victim not yet identified; that victim’s body had probably disintegrated except for the leg, he says. “This is an extra left leg,” he says “Until shown otherwise, this must be a 169th victim.” For such a victim to have been almost completely disintegrated, he says, “you have to be near the bomb.” He cites a case from Northern Ireland where a terrorist carrying a bomb into a shed was nearly vaporized when the bomb accidentally detonated. Marshall says his experience with unidentified victims “is that somebody misses them. When nobody misses them, it reinforces the suggestion that the deceased was involved in the bombing.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]
The defense for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) attempts to cast doubt on the identification of the Ryder truck used in the bombing with one rented by McVeigh under the alias “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). The jury hears testimony from Herta King, a friend of Lea McGown, the owner and manager of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh stayed in the days before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). Prosecutors say McVeigh checked into Room 25 of the Dreamland on Good Friday, April 14, 1995. King testifies that her son, David King, was then living at the motel and she took him an Easter basket on Easter Sunday, April 16. She saw a large Ryder truck in the Dreamland parking lot on that day. “Kling” did not rent the Ryder truck used in the bombing until April 17 (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Renda Truong, a high school student who had Easter dinner with the McGown family, testifies that she, too, saw a Ryder truck in the parking lot on April 16. McGown has testified that she saw McVeigh bring a truck to the motel on April 16 (see May 9, 1997). The New York Times’s Jo Thomas writes, “[T]he testimony elicited by [McVeigh’s lead lawyer Stephen] Jones today may be the start of an effort to establish that Mr. McVeigh had a truck for some innocent purpose, one day before someone else rented the truck that would carry the bomb.” The last witness for the day is Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork for Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, where McVeigh rented the Ryder truck. Beemer says two men came in on April 17 to rent the Ryder truck (see January 29, 1997) but she cannot remember what either man looked like. Asked by Jones, “Are you able to tell us that Mr. McVeigh is Robert Kling?” she replies, “No, I can’t.” Prosecutor Scott Mendeloff, on cross-examination, asks, “Can you say Mr. McVeigh is not Mr. Kling?” She again replies, “No, I can’t.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]
Entity Tags: Jo Thomas, David King, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Herta King, Vicki Beemer, Stephen Jones, Lea McGown, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Scott Mendeloff, Renda Truong, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Judge Richard P. Matsch rules that the defense in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) cannot call former BATF informant Carole Howe to testify (see August 1994 - March 1995). Matsch rules that Howe’s testimony is irrelevant to McVeigh’s case and could confuse or mislead the jury, according to Howe’s lawyer Clark Brewster. Brewster says that Howe was scheduled to appear this afternoon, and would discuss audio recordings and handwritten notes she had made about alleged bomb threats from the white supremacists at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995). Howe was a paid informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for over two years, and has claimed that she warned federal authorities more than four months prior to the Oklahoma City bombing that up to 15 US cities would be bombed. However, government sources have questioned her credibility, and she is under indictment in a separate case in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for alleged bomb threats and possession of a destructive device. [CNN, 5/27/1997]
Security camera footage of the Ryder truck used by Timothy McVeigh to deliver the bomb as it is parked in front of the Murrah Federal Building just minutes before detonation. The truck is barely visible in the upper left of the frame. [Source: Associated Press]The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) suffers a setback when a witness brought on to show that someone else could have bombed the Murrah Federal Building admits that one of the men she saw fleeing the scene might have been McVeigh. Daina Bradley, visiting the building on April 19 to get a Social Security number for her four-year-old son, lost her leg in the blast, and the family members accompanying her, including her mother, her son and her three-year-old daughter, died; her sister was also injured. Her rescuers had to amputate her leg to free her from the rubble. She has said in previous statements that she saw a dark-complexioned man not resembling the tall, pale McVeigh leave the passenger side of the Ryder truck and walk quickly away in the moments before the blast; some suspect Bradley is referring to the infamous, never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). “It was a olive-complexion man with short hair, curly, clean-cut,” she testifies. “He had on a blue Starter jacket, blue jeans, and tennis shoes and a white [baseball cap] with purple flames.” But she now remembers a second man getting out of the driver’s seat of the truck, and says the man she saw resembled McVeigh. Prosecutors elicit the fact that Bradley suffers from serious memory problems and has been treated for mental illness. Her previous testimony had been taken in May 1995 by federal investigators who spoke with her while she was in the hospital recovering from her wounds. She says she has not told anyone about the second man she saw exit the truck until last week, when she spoke with prosecuting attorney Cheryl A. Ramsey. She then told US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, another prosecutor, of her memory of the second man. On the stand, Ryan asks her: “You told me that there was nothing that you saw about the man that ran across the street that was different than what you could see when you looked at Mr. McVeigh. There weren’t any differences that you could see.” She agrees. She also admits that she cannot remember the size of the truck or its orientation to the Murrah Building. [New York Times, 5/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 288-290]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) calls Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, an FBI forensic lab specialist who has become a “whistleblower” for what he has called shoddy practices at the central FBI crime lab (see January 27, 1997). Lead defense lawyer Stephen Jones uses Whitehurst’s testimony to attack the credibility of the forensics tying McVeigh to the bombing (see April 16, 1997). Whitehurst casts aspersions on one lab technician’s handling of evidence obtained from a piece of the Ryder truck destroyed in the blast; the lab technician, David Williams, never told Whitehurst that the piece from the truck was found by a civilian and therefore of questionable evidentiary value. However, Whitehurst is unable to say that any evidence from the bombing itself was contaminated or handled poorly. Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to allow the defense to introduce the Justice Department report criticizing the FBI lab’s “poor” handling of evidence in several cases (see April 16, 1997). [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/27/1997; CNN, 5/27/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Former US attorney Mimi Wesson later says that “the prosecution was able to dilute quite a bit of the impact of Whitehurst’s testimony during cross-examination.” [Salon, 5/29/1997]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) rests after having presented 25 witnesses over less than four days of testimony. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh does not testify in his own defense. [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] Defense lawyers, led by Stephen Jones, found it difficult to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997). Their story was that McVeigh was the unwitting victim of an overzealous federal investigation and the treachery of his friends. Today, they try to cast doubt on some of the witness testimony, with little apparent success, focusing on critical testimony by two friends of McVeigh’s, Michael and Lori Fortier (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, After May 6, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), calling them drug addicts who were lying in order to profit from their story and to avoid jail time. The last witness, Deborah Brown, who employed Lori Fortier at her tanning salon in Kingman, Arizona, testifies that she had bought amphetamines from the Fortiers, and tells the jury the Fortiers were so poor that “their baby was on some kind of state assistance to get formula and diapers.” Jones plays an audiotape for the jury of Michael Fortier’s telephone conversations that were wiretapped by federal agents in the weeks after the bombing, when Fortier was considered a suspect. In those recordings, Fortier boasted to his brother John that he could mislead federal agents and make a million dollars through book rights from his connection to McVeigh, saying: “I can tell a fable, I can tell stories all day long. The less I say now, the bigger the price will be later.” On another audiotape, Fortier, his voice slurred from apparent drug use, is heard telling a friend: “The less I say right now, the bigger the price later—there will be books, book rights. I’m the key, the head honcho, General Crank. I hold the key to it all.… I could pick my nose and wipe it on the judge’s desk.” Jones also plays excerpts from an interview Fortier gave CNN, where he said: “My friend Tim McVeigh is not the face of terror that is reported on the cover of Time magazine. I do not believe that Tim blew up any building in Oklahoma.” Fortier has already admitted that he lied to the press and the FBI during the early phases of the investigation. However, the defense has no alibi for McVeigh, nor does it offer an alternative theory to the prosecution’s version of events.
Prosecution's Case Not Challenged, Analysts Say - Legal analysts say Jones did little to challenge the prosecution, and note that Judge Richard Matsch prohibited Jones from presenting his theory of a foreign terrorist conspiracy behind the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Neither did Matsch allow Jones to put FBI laboratory technicians on the stand to explain their alleged mishandling of evidence in the case (see January 27, 1997), though Jones did present FBI lab technician Frederic Whitehurst, whose whistleblowing led to a Justice Department investigation that revealed the mishandlings (see May 27, 1997). Jones also suffered a setback when his star witness, Daina Bradley, abruptly changed the story she had told for almost two years. Bradley, a victim of the bombing who lost her two children and her mother along with her right leg, had said that she saw a “swarthy” man get out of the Ryder truck that carried the fertilizer bomb. On the witness stand, Bradley added a new detail: a second, light-complexioned man also in the truck. She was also forced to admit that she had been treated for mental illness and had a poor memory (see May 23, 1997). Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says that the jury is most likely to focus on Jones’s inability to prove McVeigh’s innocence. “The message you get as a juror,” Cohen says, “is [that] this is the worst mass murder in American history. There’s 168 dead, and you can only come up with four days of testimony? What about the alibi? If you’re going to call a guy innocent, you’d better make your case.” [Washington Post, 5/29/1997; New York Times, 5/29/1997; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] After the final presentation, law professor Mimi Wesson, a former assistant US attorney and death penalty expert, says she is “puzzled” by the defense’s “truncated” presentation. “The main thing they tried to suggest was that McVeigh was not alone. They elicited that through witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with someone else, or that they saw someone else at places connected to the bombing. But I must say that rather puzzled me, since it is no defense for McVeigh that he acted with a confederate even if that confederate cannot be identified and has not been apprehended and cannot be prosecuted.” Wesson believes that the defense may be conceding guilt, and may be attempting to build a case for “mitigating circumstances” that would spare McVeigh the death penalty. Wesson says that the testimony of Bradley was very damaging for the defense’s case, and doubly so because Bradley was a defense witness. The lawyer who handled the defense’s attack on the forensic evidence (see May 27, 1997), Christopher Tritico, did a “skilled” job in going after the forensics, but Wesson is not convinced Tritico’s assault swayed many jurors. She calls Whitehurst a “prig, a person who has his own fastidious, rather fussy idea about how things ought to be done, who is extremely inflexible and intolerant about things being done any other way” who did not make a good impression on the jury. Jones’s final attack on the Fortiers (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997) was “predictable,” Wesson says, and nothing the jury had not already heard: “The thing about the Fortiers is not so much that we believe them because they’re truthful—we know they were liars about many things—but in the end I think you believe them because their testimony about McVeigh is corroborated at almost every point by other testimony.” The “parade of victims” put on by the government was tremendously effective, Wesson says: “They did such a tremendously effective case of arousing people’s emotions during the main part of the case.” [Salon, 5/29/1997]
Defense Had 'All but Impossible' Task - In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will write: “The task of the defense team was all but impossible. They could not come up with a single alibi witness. They faced the reality that McVeigh had told dozens of people of his hatred of the government, and had told a friend that he planned to take violent action on April 19. Rental agreements and a drawing of downtown Oklahoma City linked him to the blast. He carried earplugs in his car driving north from Oklahoma City 40 minutes after the explosion. How could it all be explained away?” [Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Christopher L. Tritico, Deborah Brown, Daina Bradley, Douglas O. Linder, Timothy James McVeigh, Lori Fortier, Michael Joseph Fortier, Mimi Wesson, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Frederic Whitehurst
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The lawyers present their closing arguments in the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the accused Oklahoma City bomber (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh 'a Traitor' Who 'Deserves to Die' - Federal prosecutor Larry Mackey delivers a meticulous recap of the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997), portraying McVeigh as a “domestic terrorist” guilty of “a crime of ghastly proportions.… Timothy McVeigh is a domestic terrorist [who was] motivated by hatred of the government.… This is not a prosecution of Tim McVeigh for his political beliefs. This is a prosecution of Tim McVeigh because of what he did: He committed murder. This is a murder case.” Mackey asks the jurors: “Who could do such a thing? Who could do such a thing? Based on the evidence, the answer is clear: Timothy McVeigh did it.” Referring to McVeigh’s well-documented hatred of the government and McVeigh’s own writings, Mackey concludes: “The law enforcement officers who died were not treasonous officials… or ‘cowardice bastards.’ The credit union employees who disappeared were not tyrants whose blood had to be spilled. And certainly the 19 children who died were not the storm troopers McVeigh said must die because of their association with the evil empire. In fact, they were bosses and secretaries, they were blacks and whites, they were mothers, daughters, fathers and sons. They were a community. So who are the real patriots and who is the traitor?” Concluding the prosecution’s close, attorney Beth Wilkinson points at McVeigh and says to the jury: “Look into the eyes of a coward and tell him you will have courage. Tell him you will speak with one unified voice as the moral conscience of the community and tell him he is no patriot. He is a traitor and he deserves to die.” [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/29/1997; Washington Post, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997]
McVeigh 'Not a Demon, Though Surely His Act Was Demonic' - For the defense, attorneys Stephen Jones and Robert Nigh Jr. portray McVeigh as the innocent victim of an overzealous investigation and the treachery of his friends (see May 28, 1997). Jones and Nigh say that McVeigh was victimized by a rush to judgment led by a federal government desperate to solve the worst act of terrorism on US soil, and by a public overwhelmed by sympathy for the victims of the bombing. “The emotion is a twin emotion,” Jones says. “On one hand what has been evoked has been sympathy for the victims, and on the other hand repugnance” for McVeigh’s far-right political philosophy. “The evidence demonstrates tragically that what law enforcement did was terribly, terribly wrong,” Nigh adds. “Instead of an objective investigation of the case, the federal law enforcement officials involved decided the case and then jammed the evidence and witnesses to fit the decision.” Jones insists: “There’s no witness who saw Tim McVeigh in a Ryder truck (see May 23, 1997). There’s no witness that saw Tim McVeigh build a bomb. [The prosecution’s case is built of] speculation, inference piled on inference, trying to put an 11 and a half size foot in an eight and a half size shoe.” The defense also insists that evidence presented against their client was tainted by sloppy FBI lab technicians (see January 27, 1997), and that witness testimonies were unreliable and in some cases fabricated (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997). Defense lawyer Christopher L. Tritico calls the FBI laboratory that handled the case “a ship without a rudder, without a sail, without a captain, adrift, making judgment calls that affect the rest of people’s lives.” In a statement that seemingly concedes McVeigh’s guilt, Jones says of McVeigh, “[H]e is not a demon though surely his act was demonic.” He asks that McVeigh be spared so that some day the full story might come out, and so that the political alienation he personifies would not be rekindled by his execution. [Washington Post, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997]
Chevie Kehoe. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Cheyne Kehoe surrenders to federal authorities and tells them where his fugitive brother, Chevie Kehoe, is hiding. Both men were raised as members of the white separatist, overtly racist “Christian Identity” tradition (see 1960s and After) by their parents; the brothers’ father, a Vietnam veteran who hated the government, gave them their first training with weapons. Chevie Kehoe will later recall his father telling them, “If they’re not white then they don’t have the right to exist.” Chevie Kehoe became fascinated with the story of slain white supremacist Robert Jay Mathews, the founder of The Order (see Late September 1983 and December 8, 1984); he, his brother Cheyne, and a few friends formed a small supremacist group they called the Aryan People’s Republic. The Kehoe brothers became notorious in February 1997 after they had a shootout with Ohio Highway Patrol officers and escaped on foot; the videotape of the shootout became a sensation on the national news circuit. Both the Kehoes were suspected of torturing and murdering Arkansas gun dealer William Mueller, his wife Nancy, and his daughter Sarah, after Chevie Kehoe had robbed him in early 1996. The Kehoes spent some time hiding from authorities at the Oklahoma white supremacist compound of Elohim City (see 1973 and After), where at least one of them had received weapons training and the Kehoe family often lived for periods of time. Cheyne Kehoe is convicted of assault and attempted murder in the Ohio shootout, and receives 24 years in prison; Chevie Kehoe pleads guilty and receives 20 years. Chevie Kehoe and Daniel Lee, a member of the Kehoes’ Aryan People’s Republic, are later indicted for the Arkansas murder and a variety of charges based on their plots to attack federal officials; Kehoe will be sentenced to life in prison and Lee will be sentenced to death. [Anti-Defamation League, 8/9/2002; Nicole Nichols, 2003] Investigations later show that the Kehoe brothers had ties of some nature with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and the Aryan Republican Army (ARA—see 1992 - 1995).
Timothy McVeigh sits in the courtroom during his trial. [Source: India Times]Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is convicted on all 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 6/2/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury deliberates for over 23 hours, spread over four days (including a weekend), before announcing it has a verdict. McVeigh, who enters the courtroom with a smile on his face, shows no emotion when the guilty verdicts are read aloud by US District Judge Richard Matsch; Matsch polls the 12 jurors to ensure that they are indeed unanimous in their verdict. McVeigh is convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight law enforcement agents who died in the blast, one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of using a weapon of mass destruction, and one count of destruction of a federal building. McVeigh awaits a trial in Oklahoma, where he will face 160 counts of murdering the civilians who died in the bombing; Oklahoma City district attorney Bob Macy says he will file state charges that will bring both McVeigh and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols to court to face the death penalty. Many family members break down in tears as the verdicts are read; one woman shouts, “We got him!” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler accepts an ovation from the gallery, and later says: “We’re obviously very pleased with the verdict. We always had confidence in our evidence. Now maybe everyone else will have confidence in our evidence.” Defense attorney Stephen Jones says he will prepare his client for the sentencing phase, where many feel McVeigh will be sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997). (Both sets of attorneys are under a judicial gag order preventing them from discussing the details of the case.) Jannie Coverdale, who lost her grandchildren in the blast, says she has mixed emotions: “This is bittersweet. After all, this is a young man who has wasted his life. I’m glad they found him guilty, but I’m sad for him, too. I feel sorry for him. He had so much to offer his country.… I want him to get the death penalty, but not out of revenge. It’s necessary. I haven’t seen any remorse from Timothy McVeigh. If he ever walked the streets, he would murder again. I don’t want to see that.” Asked if the verdict will bring her closure, she says: “I don’t think there will ever be closure. Too many people are missing.” Sharon Ice, whose brother Paul Douglas Ice was one of the federal agents killed in the bombing, calls McVeigh a “monster.” Former judge Durant Davidson says he supports the verdict: “I don’t have any question about that. There was a time before the trial started that I didn’t know. [But] after having followed it, there would not have been any question in my mind.” In Washington, President Clinton refuses to comment directly on the verdict, citing the judge’s gag order, but says: “This is a very important and long overdue day for the survivors and families of those who died in Oklahoma City.… I say to the families of the victims, no single verdict can bring an end to your anguish. But your courage has been an inspiration to all Americans. Our prayers are with you.” [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Washington Post, 6/3/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] McVeigh’s father William and his sister Jennifer release a statement from their Pendleton, New York, home that reads in part: “Even though the jury has found Tim guilty, we still love him very much and intend to stand by him no matter what happens. We would like to ask everyone to pray for Tim in this difficult time.” [Washington Post, 6/3/1997] Later, a juror says he and his fellows grew more convinced of McVeigh’s guilt with each day that the trial continued. “There is no justification for that kind of action,” juror Tony Stedman will say. [Associated Press, 1/11/1998] As the prosecution leaves the courthouse, a weeping woman pushes her way towards lead attorney Joseph Hartzler, throws her arms around him, and says, “Dear God, thank you for what you have done.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 292]
Entity Tags: Jannie Coverdale, Paul Douglas Ice, Jennifer McVeigh, Joseph H. Hartzler, Richard P. Matsch, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert (“Bob”) Macy, Tony Stedman, Sharon Ice, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Legal observers say that the guilty verdict against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) does not mean that the trial of McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), will proceed as smoothly for the prosecution. The prosecutors in the Nichols trial will likely have to use witnesses and evidence the McVeigh prosecutors left out of McVeigh’s trial (see May 21, 1997); those witnesses and evidence were considered “shaky” or potentially confusing for the McVeigh jury. For example, the prosecution chose not to present evidence that McVeigh and Nichols assembled the bomb at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), apparently because prosecution lawyers were uncertain over their witnesses’ credibility on that subject. The Geary allegation is a central element of the Nichols indictment. Similarly, the McVeigh prosecutors chose not to mention the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer, which they believed was used to finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), but the Nichols prosecutors will undoubtedly use that robbery as another key element of their case against Nichols. Michael Fortier, a friend of McVeigh’s who has extensive knowledge of the bomb plot, testified against McVeigh (see May 12-13, 1997); he will also testify against Nichols, but his testimony is expected to be less effective against Nichols. Perhaps the most powerful argument for the Nichols defense is the allegation that Nichols broke with McVeigh a month before the bombing and did not take part in the bombing itself (see March 1995), an allegation supported not just by Nichols, but by his ex-wife Lana Padilla and by Fortier. [New York Times, 6/3/1997]
Legal and media analysts say the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) never captured the public’s attention the way some other trials have in recent years. “Maybe it was the absence of cameras in the courtroom,” writes the New York Times’s Bill Dedman. “Maybe the outcome never seemed in doubt. Maybe it was the numerousness of the victims or the nobodyness of the defendant or the mind-numbing horror of the event.” Dedman compares the public interest in the McVeigh trial to the far more sensational, media-saturated trials of acquitted murder suspect O.J. Simpson and the Los Angeles police officers acquitted of beating motorist Rodney King. The McVeigh trial did not attract anywhere near the media and public interest of those two trials, Dedman asserts, based on numerous polls and focus group studies. The McVeigh trial did not even garner the same level of interest as the Oliver North Iran-Contra trial (see July 7-10, 1987 and May-June, 1989). Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst for ABC News who wrote a best-selling book on the Simpson case, says: “It’s not that people are uninterested in this story. It’s just that it’s just another story. I’m certainly not writing a book about the McVeigh case.” Polls show that 30 percent of Americans followed the McVeigh case “very closely,” a number not significantly higher than the interest showed in most big news stories, and far lower than the public interest in the Simpson and King trials. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center, says: “There is not the manic interest there was in O.J. at certain points in time. I don’t think people are swept up in the emotion of this. That’s for sure.” Merrill Brown of MSNBC’s Internet news service calls the McVeigh trial one of “the top half-dozen” stories he could recall in the network’s Internet news coverage. “It has not changed people’s lives, like the Simpson case,” Brown says. “It has not reached into the nation’s consciousness like Rodney King or William Kennedy Smith [a member of the Kennedy family accused of rape] or any trial that received national notoriety as a result of cameras.” Most media news outlets covered the McVeigh trial steadily, but with few pre-emptions and special reports. Neither Time nor Newsweek featured the trial as a cover story, and supermarket tabloids paid little attention to the trial. The most obvious reason for the relative lack of media coverage is the lack of cameras in the courtroom. Dedman writes: “As a result, people never got to scrutinize the witnesses’ demeanor, study the prosecutor’s hair style and wardrobe, hear the judge’s voice, watch the lawyers bicker, see the defendant react—all those things that… turned the Simpson case from a trial into a drama.” Media psychology professor Stuart Fischoff says: “I think America has very quickly adapted to a sense of judicial activities as entertainment. [Americans now] expect to see their trials on television” so they can become “hooked.” The trial also lacked the salacious and controversial elements of other trials: unlike the Simpson case, there was virtually no sexual content, nor was there the overt racism that permeated the King trial. And unlike Simpson and Smith, no celebrities or wealthy persons were involved. Fischoff says of McVeigh: “There’s nothing particularly interesting about him. He’s not particularly handsome, he’s not particularly verbal, he’s not particularly horrible. He’s not [convicted serial killer and cannibal] Jeffrey Dahmer; you really can’t love to hate this guy. There’s no Darth Vader quotient.” And though the victims evoked considerable sympathy among Americans, they did not evoke fascination such as the victims in the Simpson murders. Observers such as CNN’s Greta van Susteren have said the victims’ stories were just too painful to contemplate for long; others have said there were too many victims for Americans to focus upon. [New York Times, 6/4/1997]
Norm Olson, the leader of the Northern Michigan Regional Militia (see April 1994, April 16-17, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), urges convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) to demand the death penalty (see June 11-13, 1997). In a letter sent to McVeigh through McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, Olson writes: “Targeting noncombatants is wrong and cannot be condoned by honorable men. As a soldier, you must die for your war crime.… Do the right thing now, Tim. Die for Janet Reno’s sins for allowing Waco (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Here is your chance to tell the world the true cause of your action. Let her forever live with that!” [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
New York Times columnist Frank Rich urges the nation to forego the idea that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) brings “closure” to the possibility that domestic terrorism could be a problem in America. Rich writes that the national media seems more than ready to move to new subjects, and shows little interest in McVeigh’s connection to what Rich calls “a diverse, violent right-wing fringe, ranging from neo-Nazis to gun-absolutists to Christian Identity white supremacists (see 1960s and After), that most journalists ignored prior to April 19, 1995.” Rich notes that the Anti-Defamation League has documented a sharp spike in “militia-related crime[s]” over the past 18 months, most of which gain little or no national news coverage. Two serious bombing plots in Oklahoma and Michigan by militia cells have recently been foiled. Abortion clinics have been hammered by assaults, prompting Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt to say: “There seems to be an inability to recognize that this terrorism is terrorism. Isn’t bombing a women’s health center terrorism?” Most militia operations and abortion-clinic bombings are being ignored by the national media, even the above-ground operations such as a recent series of public “conclaves” held by the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Author Frederick Clarkson, an expert on far-right violence, writes that it is “an authentic crisis of democracy when people seek to blame the government” for all ills, and “solve” those ills through violence rather than by voting, civil demonstrations, and other means. Another expert on far-right violence, Chip Berlet, says that “perhaps as many as five million” Americans adhere to the most enraged varieties of right-wing populism and are part of “the recruitment pool” for “neo-Nazi demagogues” waiting “to exploit and channel unresolved anger toward bloodshed and terror.” America, Rich concludes, ignores this at the nation’s peril. [New York Times, 6/5/1997]
James Blassengill and his wife, Willie, who lost six family members in the bombing, comfort one another after the verdict. [Source: AP / Washington Post]The jury in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) unanimously decides that McVeigh should be sentenced to death by lethal injection. The verdict is written in heavy black ink by jury foreman James Osgood, a single word: “Death.”
Statements by Prosecution and Defense - The prosecution puts an array of survivors and family members of the victims on the stand to tell their harrowing stories, and shows videotapes of some of the surviving children battling grave injuries in the months after the bombing. The defense counters with testimonials from some of McVeigh’s former Army friends (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), and a presentation by McVeigh’s divorced parents, Bill McVeigh and Mildred Frazer; the father introduces a 15-minute videotape of McVeigh as a child and concludes simply, “I love Tim.” The defense emphasizes McVeigh’s far-right political views, insisting that his misguided belief that the government intended to impose tyranny on its citizens was fueled by the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Branch Davidian (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) incidents, and drove McVeigh to mount his own strike against a government facility. However, defense lawyer Richard Burr tells the jury, “He is just like any of us.” The defense brings in soldiers who served with McVeigh in the Army to testify about McVeigh’s exemplary service, but their statements are quickly neutralized when prosecutors remind them that they are all taught as their first rule of duty “never to kill noncombatants, including women and children.” Another damning moment comes when prosecutor Beth Wilkinson elicits testimony that shows McVeigh killed more people in the bombing than US forces lost during Desert Storm—168 to 137. Jones pleads for a life sentence without parole. At no time do defense lawyers say that McVeigh feels any remorse towards the lives he took.
Unanimous Verdict - The jury takes about 11 hours over two days to reach its verdict. The jury unanimously finds that at least seven “aggravating circumstances” were associated with McVeigh’s crimes, including his intention to kill, his premeditation and planning, that he created a grave risk to others with reckless disregard for their lives, that he committed offenses against federal law enforcement officials, and that he created severe losses for the victims’ families. They are split in consideration of “mitigating factors” proposed by the defense. Only two find McVeigh to be a “reliable and dependable person”; only four say he had “done good deeds and helped others” during his life; none see him as a “good and loyal friend”; and none agree with the proposition that he “believed deeply in the ideals upon which the United States was founded.” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “This is not a day of great joy for the prosecution team. We’re pleased that the system worked and justice prevailed. But the verdict doesn’t diminish the great sadness that occurred in Oklahoma City two years ago. Our only hope is that the verdict will go some way toward preventing such a terrible, drastic crime from ever occurring again.” Juror Tonya Stedman says that the jury wrestled with the idea of taking McVeigh’s life for his crimes: “It was difficult because we’re talking about a life. Yes, 168 died as a result of it, but this is another life to consider. This was a big decision. I feel confident in the decision we made.” Most relatives of the bombing victims echo the sentiments expressed by Charles Tomlin, who lost a son in the explosion: “I could see the strain on them [the jurors]. You know it was a hard decision to make to put a man to death, but I’m glad they did.” However, some agree with James Kreymborg, who lost his wife and daughter in the blast. Kreymborg says he “really did not want the death penalty” because “I’ve had enough death.” Mike Lenz, whose pregnant wife died in the blast, says: “It’s not going to bring back my wife and lessen my loss. My reason for believing or wanting to put McVeigh to death is it stops. It stops here. He can’t reach out and try to recruit anybody else to his cause.” Marsha Kight, who lost her daughter in the explosion, says she would have preferred a life sentence in prison: “There is a lot of pain in living—death is pretty easy.” Lead defense attorney Stephen Jones acknowledges respect for the jury’s decision, and adds: “We ask that the barriers and intolerance that have divided us may crumble and suspicions disappear and hatred cease. And our divisions and intolerance being healed, we may live together in justice and peace. God save the United States of America. God save this honorable court.” President Clinton had publicly called for the death sentence after the bombing (see April 23, 1995), but avoids directly commenting on the jury’s decision, citing the impending trial of fellow bombing suspect Terry Nichols (see November 3, 1997). Instead, Clinton says: “This investigation and trial have confirmed our country’s faith in its justice system. To the victims and their families, I know that your healing can be measured only one day at a time. The prayers and support of your fellow Americans will be with you every one of those days.” McVeigh faces 160 murder charges under Oklahoma state law. [New York Times, 6/4/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 297-300, 308, 313-315; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] McVeigh shows no emotion when the sentence is read. When he is escorted out of the courtroom, he flashes a peace sign to the jury, then turns to his parents and sister in the front row, and mouths, “It’s okay.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 315]
McVeigh Will Be Incarcerated in Colorado 'Supermax' Facility - McVeigh will be held in the same “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). In a letter to the authors of McVeigh’s authorized biography, American Terrorist, Kaczynski will later say he “like[s]” McVeigh, describing him as “an adventurer by nature” who, at the same time, is “very intelligent” and expressed ideas that “seemed rational and sensible.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] A person who later speaks to McVeigh in prison will call him “the scariest man in the world” because he is so quiet and nondescript. “There’s nothing alarming about him—nothing,” the person will say. “He’s respectful of his elders, he’s polite. When he expresses political views, for most of what he says, Rush Limbaugh is scarier. That’s what’s incredibly frightening. If he is what he appears to be, there must be other people out there like him. You look at him and you think: This isn’t the end of something; this is the beginning of something.” [Nicole Nichols, 2003] McVeigh is one of only 13 people to be sentenced to death under federal law. It has been 34 years since any prisoner sentenced to death under federal law was executed. [New York Times, 6/4/1997] He will speak briefly and obscurely on his own behalf when Judge Richard Matsch formally sentences him to death (see August 14, 1997).
Entity Tags: Joseph H. Hartzler, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Tonya Stedman, James Kreymborg, Charles Tomlin, James Osgood, Beth Wilkinson, Timothy James McVeigh, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Marsha Kight, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Mildred (“Mickey”) Frazer, Mike Lenz, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Richard Burr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Mildred Frazer, the mother of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), says she blames the government and the news media for both McVeigh’s conviction and his death sentence (see June 11-13, 1997). She tells an ABC News interviewer: “Since my son—the day he was arrested—I feel that it was done, that he was convicted and sentenced to death by the media and the government. I’m not saying he didn’t have a fair trial. I’m just saying that I don’t think that it was done right from the beginning.” [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] During the sentencing hearing hours before, Frazer read a brief statement to the jury that she again shares with reporters. It reads in part: “I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering the people from Oklahoma City have endured since April 19th of 1995. This tragedy has affected many people around the world, including myself. I also understand the anger many people feel. I cannot tell you about Tim McVeigh, the son I love, any better than it already has been told the last three and a half days. He was a loving son and a happy child as he grew up. He was a child any mother could be proud of. I still to this very day cannot believe he could have caused this devastation. There are too many unanswered questions and loose ends. He has seen human loss in the past, and it has torn him apart. He is not the monster he has been portrayed as. He is also a mother and father’s son, a brother to two sisters, a cousin to many and a friend to many more.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 311]
A New York Times editorial warns that the conviction and death sentence of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) has done nothing to stem what it calls “the violence of the militias that inspired him.” The editorial warns: “The militias are different from anything that preceded them because they gather not to take out their rage on Communists or minorities, but to wage war against a government they consider treasonous. In recent years militia groups have assaulted, harassed, and threatened scores of government officials. It is difficult for most Americans to take seriously a group of people whose targets include America’s county clerks and whose members hold that manufacturers’ labels on the backs of road signs actually point the way to the nearest concentration camp. But militia ideology has already provoked the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), the worst act of terrorism ever to take place on American soil. Since that act the militias have continued to grow, and the possibility of more terrorism is undimmed.” Some American communities, the editorial observes, “can no longer enforce their land, tax, and weapons laws, unwilling to risk that an employee might be attacked by militia members” (see January 1994 and April 1994). Firefighters fear taking helicopters over land owned by some militia members, because they worry they will be shot down. Militia officials have filed phony liens against local officials in at least 23 states (see 1993-1994). The editorial states: “The militias are a particularly insidious strain of the American viruses of paranoia and violence. They echo the white supremacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the conspiracy theories and gun obsessions of the John Birch Society. They draw on the American icon of the man who wants to be left alone to live by his creed, taking ideas and leaders from the rural Posse Comitatus movement that reached its peak during the farm crisis of the 1980s (see 1969).… [W]ith the end of the cold war, it may be that conspiracy theories once obsessed with Communism turned inward toward the American government. The militias, most of which operate in small, autonomous groups, now also have the Internet to propagate theories and plans.” The McVeigh case has invigorated many hardcore militia groups, many of whom insist the bombing was carried out by the government to discredit the militia movement and to justify its intention to implement martial law and tyranny. Many mainstream groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) welcome militia members and echo many militias’ ideologies and beliefs. And some lawmakers, such as Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), are openly sympathetic to the militias (see February 15, 1995 and May 2, 1995). The editorial concludes with praise for the federal government’s peaceful resolution of the Montana Freemen standoff (see June 13, 1996), stating: “The Freemen standoff also showed the importance of public condemnation of violence. The Freemen found little support in surrounding communities. While militia forces thrive on government attacks, they cannot withstand the disdain of their neighbors. The militias are so widespread because they ostensibly draw on ideas strongly rooted in American history. But even citizens with sympathy for those ideas need to distinguish between their peaceful and their violent expression.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] The editorial echoes concerns recently expressed by Times columnist Frank Rich (see June 5, 1997).
Many legal experts say Timothy McVeigh’s defense lawyers may have inadvertently helped sentence their client to death (see June 11-13, 1997). At McVeigh’s behest, the defense lawyers’ strategy was to paint McVeigh as a political idealist who believed that the government’s actions at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), constituted the first wave of a larger assault by the government against its citizenry. Instead, many analysts say, the jury may have taken account of those beliefs in deciding McVeigh deserved to die. Law professor Laurence H. Tribe says, “The more he seemed like a person who misguidedly, but deliberately, schemed a form of revenge that involved the sacrifice of innocent life, the less likely the jury was to spare his life.” Fellow law professor Erwin Chemerinsky agrees, saying: “We especially want to deter people from thinking they can commit mass murder in the name of politics. My guess is that the defense was hoping that the jury would see this as a person outraged and maybe feel more empathy with him. I certainly think that from the defense perspective it was a counterproductive instruction.” Tribe believes McVeigh himself insisted that his lawyers emphasize his political ideology, saying: “Clearly Mr. McVeigh was unwilling to portray any kind of remorse through his demeanor or what he would allow his lawyers to argue. They must have decided that their only remaining recourse was to make what he did understandable, if outrageous.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] McVeigh’s mother blames the government and the news media for McVeigh’s conviction and death sentence (see June 13, 1997).
According to an analysis by the New York Times, many questions remain unanswered in the aftermath of the conviction and death sentence of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Who, if anyone, helped McVeigh assemble the bomb? Did McVeigh receive help from co-conspirator Terry Nichols alone (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), or did he receive help from his friends in the militia and white supremacist movements (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995)? Was there a larger conspiracy that the McVeigh trial failed to uncover? In sentencing hearings, McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones hinted at just such a conspiracy (see June 11-13, 1997), echoing assertions he and his fellow lawyers made during the trial—that McVeigh was part of a larger, shadowy conspiracy (see April 24, 1997). Jones asked jurors to spare McVeigh’s life in the hope that McVeigh may at some future date reveal the details of that alleged conspiracy, saying: “The chapter—the book of the Oklahoma City bombing—is not closed. Do not close it. Do not permit others to close it. Let there be a full accounting, not a partial accounting.” Prosecutor Joseph H. Hartzler chose from the outset to focus strictly on McVeigh and eschew attempting to prove the existence of a possible conspiracy. While Jones and his fellow lawyers were not allowed to present what they called evidence of a “global” conspiracy involving McVeigh, Jones’s media comments, including one assertion that both McVeigh’s co-conspirators and the federal government want McVeigh executed to keep him quiet, are fueling conspiracy theories among right-wing militia groups. Within the Justice Department, many argued that McVeigh may well have been part of just such a conspiracy, though evidence of that conspiracy was thin at best and the department is not conducting an investigation into any such possibility. It is possible that the upcoming trial of Nichols may shed more light on the issue. [New York Times, 6/15/1997] Oklahoma Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City) wants McVeigh to face a state trial before his execution in order to explore his theory that the government covered up evidence of a conspiracy, and even that government officials knew the bombing was coming and did nothing to stop it. Key has succeeded in having a district judge order the empaneling of a grand jury to look into his allegations. Key’s lawyer, Mark Sanford, tells a local reporter that he hopes the grand jury will identify the notorious “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995), saying: “I am glad someone is going to start looking into the investigation the federal jury never got into. Maybe we will get some answers. We know there is a John Doe No. 2. We have to get everybody who participated. They all have to be punished for what they did.” [New York Times, 6/15/1997] Key is involved with right-wing militia groups (see July 17, 1998).
The US Senate votes 98-0 to bar burial and other veterans benefits for anyone found guilty of capital offenses. The measure is directed at former Army Sergeant Timothy McVeigh, recently sentenced to death for killing eight federal employees in the Oklahoma City bombing (see June 11-13, 1997), to prevent him from being buried in a military cemetery after he is executed. [Chicago Sun-Times, 6/19/1997] Six days later, the House of Representatives votes to approve a similar resolution sponsored by Spencer Bachus (R-AL). Bachus says his bill was motivated not only by McVeigh, but by another crime: the 1981 slaying of an African-American teenager by Ku Klux Klan members. One of those convicted in the slaying, Henry Francis Hays, was executed and then buried in a Mobile, Alabama, military ceremony with full honors. Hays served briefly in the US Army in the early 1970s. “In a military ceremony, we said to our children and our grandchildren, ‘We’re overlooking this [crime], this is a good soldier,’” Bachus says. The Hays burial caused people to ask: “Who is entitled to a hero’s funeral? Who are our heroes?” As a decorated veteran of Desert Storm, McVeigh could have asked to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. [Deseret News, 6/24/1997; Associated Press, 6/24/1997] McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones calls the legislation a non-issue, saying his client has not asked to be buried in a military cemetery or to be buried with honors: “The controversy about Mr. McVeigh’s burial in a national cemetery is a classic straw man argument. Mr. McVeigh has not demonstrated any intent or desire to be buried in a national cemetery. The politicians are simply flogging this issue for votes when they should be concerned with the legitimate problems of the country. Mr. McVeigh hasn’t been formally sentenced to die yet. He has not lost his appeals, and moreover, he has not been executed yet.” [Rocky Mountain News, 6/20/1997]
A.M. Rosenthal. [Source: Schema Root (.org)]New York Times executive editor and columnist A.M. Rosenthal writes an excoriating op-ed column about the “traitor movement” that he says impelled Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to carry out the bombing of a federal building and kill 168 people (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Neither Congress, state governments, law enforcement agencies, nor American political parties have “done their duty,” he writes, in protecting the citizenry from what he calls “the gangs of armed racists who conceived and organized the crusade that inspired” McVeigh. “Since that day,” Rosenthal writes, “nothing has been done that diminishes the vivid likelihood that these gangs will carry out or inspire other bombings in other cities. They call themselves militia and patriots. But they are exactly what a prosecutor said about Timothy McVeigh—traitors. They talk and think like sick paranoids, which they are. But they know what they are doing. They are trying to inject civil servants with terror, prevent state governments from functioning, and eat away at American confidence in the ability of government to protect the citizenry and itself.” The “patriot movement” continues to, among other things, buy and distribute explosives for more bombings, cheat on their taxes, and commit an array of crimes, from money laundering to robbery to violent attacks on law enforcement officials and even murder. Most state law enforcement agencies are “paralyzed” by inaction, Rosenthal writes, with many state attorneys general refusing to enforce state legislation against militia and paramilitary “gangs.” Gun-rights advocates argue against any laws against gun distribution or ownership, Rosenthal writes, and as a result the most violent and deranged racists and anti-government activists have no problem assembling their own arsenals. In many instances, he writes, local militia organizations outgun the local and even state police. President Clinton spoke out against militias in the days after the Oklahoma City bombing, but, Rosenthal writes, he was drowned out by “politicians, lobbyists, and journalists who wanted him defeated in 1996 [calling him] a vote-hunting manipulator.… Since then there has been not much leadership from the president against armed racism and rebellion, no plan of action.” It is up to the press, he writes, to “report the importance” of the government’s failure to take action against the militia, and the public to “raise a gigantic fuss about the country’s collective refusal to do anything but shake its head and wipe its eye.” [New York Times, 6/20/1997]
A grand jury convenes to investigate allegations that a larger conspiracy surrounds the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), perhaps involving a federal government cover-up. Militia member Timothy McVeigh was convicted (see June 2, 1997) and sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997) for carrying out the bombing; his alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols awaits trial for his role in the bombing. State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City) and accountant Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandsons in the blast, gathered 13,500 signatures on a petition to force the review. (Wilburn became involved when private investigator J.D. Cash began his own investigation, fueled by his belief that McVeigh either had no involvement in the bombing or was part of a larger conspiracy. Cash is a strong advocate of the “John Doe No. 2” theory, which states that the putative, never-identified Doe No. 2 suspect “proves” the existence of a wider conspiracy—see June 14, 1995 and January 29, 1997). Both Key and Wilburn allege that the federal government had prior knowledge of the bombing (see June 15, 1997); Key is involved with right-wing militia groups (see July 17, 1998). Twelve jurors are selected in less than three hours. Prosecutor Pat Morgan questions jurors about their backgrounds, their acquaintance with victims of the explosion, and their views of the case. Five jurors know someone killed or injured in the bombing, or someone who participated in the rescue. One prospective member, Ben Baker, says the grand jury is unnecessary: “Everybody I’ve talked to believes this is kind of a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. I believe the same thing.” Federal officials have long stated that they doubt anyone besides McVeigh and Nichols was involved in the bombing plot, though circumstantial evidence exists of white supremacist militia involvement on some level (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Oklahoma City District Attorney Robert Macy, who will advise the grand jury, has already promised to file state murder charges against both McVeigh and Nichols. Macy originally opposed the grand jury, but now says he hopes it will “find out what the truth was in the Oklahoma City bombing, if there is any additional evidence.” Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson calls the grand jury investigation a waste of time and taxpayer money. “The notion that it can learn something that the FBI was unable to learn, is, I think, ludicrous,” he says. “The witnesses that Mr. Key is talking about, we know who they are, we know what they have to say. That doesn’t get us any closer to knowing the truth of it, hearing them say it again.” The grand jury petition names seven witnesses who have said they saw at least one other person with McVeigh in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. None of those witnesses were called before the federal grand jury that indicted McVeigh and Nichols (see August 10, 1995). [Deseret News, 6/30/1997; New York Times, 7/1/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 266]
Entrance to Fort Hood, Texas. [Source: New York Times]Fort Hood, Texas, preparing for the annual “Freedom Fest” Fourth of July celebration, readies itself for a large crowd of local civilians planning to spend the day enjoying fireworks, marathons, concessions, military bands, carnival rides, and community activities. However, anti-government activists Bradley Glover and Michael Dorsett are captured by FBI and Missouri state police officers in Missouri before they can turn the festival into a massacre. Glover and Dorsett have become convinced that the United Nations is housing Communist Chinese troops at the military base, in conjuction with a “New World Order” conspiracy to invade and occupy the United States (see September 11, 1990). Glover, Dorsett, and others—all “splinter” members of an organization calling itself the “Third Continental Congress” (TCC—see Summer 1996 - June 1997)—are planning a multi-pronged attack on the Army base. Soon after, five others are arrested in conjunction with the plot.
History of the Fort Hood Plot - Glover and other TCC members believe that the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was a plot by federal agencies to gin up an excuse to persecute “patriot” organizations. Glover told British reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing that “it’s only a matter of time now before the shooting war begins.” He believed that the bombing would be followed by heavy-handed anti-terrrorism legislation that would see federal agencies attempt to violently eradicate militia groups, and in turn, those groups would violently resist. “If this thing goes down,” Glover predicted in May 1995, “there’s going to be an extremely large number of US military that’s coming to our side with their weapons. They’ll turn like a dog on a cat.” He believed the militias would easily defeat the government forces—“We can whip those guys. We can take out the so-called ninja wanna-bes. We’ll beat ‘em quick”—but worries that President Clinton will turn to the Chinese forces he supposedly has housed throughout the United States: “That’s what worries us,” Glover said. “Then we’re gonna be fighting big time.” Glover became known to federal authorities after his frequent interviews with reporters after the Oklahoma City bombing, and claims to lead groups such as the Southern Kansas Regional Militia and the First Kansas Mechanized Infantry. (In his “real” life, Glover is a part-time computer consultant.) When the expected crackdown failed to materialize, Glover became a national council member of a national “umbrella” militia group called the Tri-States Militia (see October 1995 and After) and then began associating with ever-more violent anti-government extremists. Glover, Dorsett, and a small group of extremists devise an extensive plan to strike at a number of government facilities and military bases, beginning with Fort Hood.
Arrests - But federal and state authorities are well aware of their plans. At 6:15 a.m. on the morning of July 4, FBI agents arrest Glover and Dorsett in their tents in the Colorado Bend State Park. The two have an arsenal with them: two rifles, five pistols, 1600 rounds of ammunition, bulletproof vests, a smoke grenade, a homemade silencer, explosive material, a night vision scope, and other items. “Their explosives would have been more damaging to the personnel at Fort Hood than to the physical installation,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Richard Coffey later tells a Texas newspaper reporter. “They did not have the same philosophy as the people in Oklahoma City. They were not looking for a huge explosion to make their point.” Instead, they planned small, repeated explosions. Glover, charged only with weapons violations, posts bail and flees to Wisconsin, where he is quickly arrested again after another weapons charge is added to the original indictment. Dorsett is held on an outstanding federal passport violation. Fellow plotter Merlon “Butch” Lingfelter is later arrested in Wisconsin on July 10, while looking for Glover; he surrenders his two machine guns and two pipe bombs, but says, “I’m not trying to be a noble knight in this, but it’s time somebody somewhere does something.” Despite his defiance, Lingenfelter tells a reporter that the meetings held by Glover were merely social outings. Kevin and Terry Hobeck are arrested on July 10 in Colorado after giving two illegal automatic weapons to undercover police officers; Thomas and Kimberly Newman are arrested on July 11 in Kansas after Thomas Newman gives the same undercover officers a sack full of pipe bombs.
Suicide Mission? - One law enforcement official believes that the group may have intended to die in the planned Fort Hood attack. “I think you have to have a warped sense of reality to think you can pull of a mission like that,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain James Keathley later tells a Denver reporter. “It sounds like a suicide mission to me. I don’t know if they could have pulled this off.” [Mark Pitcavage, 1997; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Sentences - Glover will draw a seven-year prison sentence, and the others lesser terms. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Entity Tags: Kimberly Newman, Kevin Hobeck, Fort Hood, First Kansas Mechanized Infantry, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bradley Glover, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, United Nations, US Department of the Army, Southern Kansas Regional Militia, Thomas Newman, James Keathley, Richard Coffey, Terry Hobeck, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Third Continental Congress, Merlon (“Butch”) Lingenfelter, Jr., Michael Dorsett, Tri-States Militia
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) ask Judge Richard P. Matsch for a new trial. They cite a number of reasons for the request, including what they call juror misconduct. Lead lawyer Stephen Jones says that jurors violated an order by Matsch not to discuss the case among themselves before they began their deliberations, referring to a conversation held on May 9 in which one juror allegedly said during a break, “I think we all know what the verdict should be.” Matsch was made aware of the conversation and decided it warranted no action. However, Jones says the conversation proves that McVeigh did not have “an impartial jury.” Jones also says McVeigh was denied a fair trial by Matsch’s ruling that the defense could not introduce into evidence a Justice Department report that criticized practices at the FBI crime laboratory (see January 27, 1997 and April 16, 1997). Jones also attacks Matsch’s refusal to allow the testimony of federal informant Carole Howe (see May 23, 1997), which might have led the jury to conclude that “the government failed to investigate leads which concerned a larger conspiracy to bomb the Federal Building in Oklahoma.” Matsch ruled that Howe’s testimony would have been irrelevant to the charges against McVeigh. “Had the defense been allowed to admit Howe’s testimony and present evidence that others may have committed the bombing,” Jones argues, “the seeds of reasonable doubt would have been planted in the minds of the jurors.” [New York Times, 7/8/1997] Prosecutors will oppose the request, calling the trial “scrupulously fair” and “close to perfect” in its handling. [New York Times, 7/25/1997] Matsch will deny the request (see August 12, 1997).
Packages containing fake bombs, carrying return addresses of Southwest Indian Nations and All Nations Militia, are mailed to prosecutors and federal judges in Colorado and New Mexico. The perpetrators are never identified. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Three Florida members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), Jules Fettu, Donald Hansard, and Raymond Leone, are charged with assaulting an African-American man and his son after the two leave a concert in Sunrise, Florida. Witnesses will state that around 11 “skinheads,” or white males who shave their heads, espouse racist views, and sometimes display Nazi symbology, take part in the beating, kicking the pair in the back, chest, and face and smashing beer bottles over their heads. Fettu is heard to yell “white power!” and racial epithets during the attack, which is classified as a hate crime by police officers. Hansard and Leone will later plead guilty to aggravated assault; Fettu, who runs the WCOTC’s Web site, will be convicted of battery against the two. Guy Lombardi, the group’s Southeast regional director, will plead guilty to attempting to intimidate a witness in the case (see June 1998). [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999]
Federal Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to grant convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s request for a new trial (see July 7-25, 1997). Matsch says McVeigh’s trial was fair and impartial. McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, says he will appeal Matsch’s ruling. [New York Times, 8/12/1997]
The lawyer for alleged Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), Michael Tigar, asks that his client be granted a change of venue for his upcoming trial. Tigar argues that Nichols cannot receive a fair trial in Denver due to bomber Timothy McVeigh’s recent conviction and sentencing in that city (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). “Media coverage has now made it impossible for a jury in this district to make, if called upon, the reasoned moral response required by the cases,” Tigar argues in his brief. Tigar’s brief is accompanied by three bound documents filled with media coverage research. Prosecutors argue that Nichols can receive a fair trial: prosecutor Sean Connelly responds, “There is no reason to believe that Colorado jurors now lack the same ability fairly to decide Nichols’s guilt and punishment that was exhibited in the trial of his co-defendant McVeigh.” Tigar asks that the trial be moved to San Francisco; prosecutors say that Tigar wants the trial moved to a venue where the jury would be less likely to consider the death penalty if Nichols is convicted. Tigar’s arguments are much the same as those advanced by him and McVeigh’s legal team when McVeigh’s trial was moved from Oklahoma City to Denver (see February 20, 1996). “This community has come to share the characteristics identified by this court in its Feb. 20, 1996, opinion,” Tigar writes. [New York Times, 8/13/1997; New York Times, 8/14/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch will deny the request four days later. [New York Times, 8/16/1997]
Judge Richard P. Matsch denies a bid by lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) to disqualify US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan from serving in the trial. Ryan, the US Attorney from Oklahoma City, might cry during Nichols’s trial, Nichols’s lawyers argue, as he did during the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), and thus unduly influence the jury. Ryan wept during his questioning of a witness who was testifying about the death of a little girl in the bombing (see May 3, 1997). Ryan says of the questioning: “I recognize my voice quivered. I stopped for about 10 seconds to try to regain control.” Matsch asks Ryan, “Do you believe you can participate in the trial of Terry Nichols with the necessary detachment required of a trial advocate?” Ryan says that he can, and pledges “proper decorum” during the trial; Matsch then denies the request. Matsch does grant a defense request to hold a hearing about what use the FBI made of correspondence it had seized belonging to Nichols. Defense attorney Michael Tigar presents testimony that shows officials of the Bureau of Prisons made copies of Nichols’s correspondence with his son, Josh, his wife, Marife, his mother, and some close friends in Michigan. Tigar says he protested the handing over of that correspondence to the FBI. Prosecutor James Orenstein tells Matsch that prison officials had the authority to give copies of the correspondence to the FBI, but admits the correspondence gave them nothing useful. Matsch rules: “We’re entitled to find that out. We’re going to hold a hearing and find out what was done with the mail.” [New York Times, 8/14/1997]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), is officially sentenced to death by Judge Richard P. Matsch. The hearing is a formality, as a jury sentenced McVeigh to death the day before; the entire proceeding takes nine minutes. Before Matsch pronounces sentence, he allows McVeigh to speak on his own behalf. McVeigh does so—briefly and cryptically. McVeigh says: “If the court please, I wish to use the words of Justice Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead to speak for me. He wrote: ‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.’ That’s all I have.” McVeigh is referring to a dissent written by Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in a 1928 decision, Olmstead v. United States, which upheld the use of wiretap evidence. Brandeis’s dissent said that the government may not commit crimes to enforce the law, and warned of “terrible retribution” if it did. Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, refuses to speculate as to why McVeigh chose to use that quote, though Jones says it is a favorite of his client. McVeigh believes the government broke the law in the Branch Davidian siege (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Jones’s defense partner, Christopher Tritico, tells reporters he is unfamiliar with the quote and will have to look it up. US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, part of the prosecution team, later says that McVeigh’s remarks were so fleeting that “I didn’t catch it all.” Many families of the bombing victims find McVeigh’s quote cryptic and unclear. Roy Sells, who lost his wife in the bombing, says: “I don’t know if he was referring to the Waco deal or what. I wish he would’ve quoted something from his own heart instead of out of somebody else’s book. I wanted to hear what he had to say about it.” A survivor of the bombing, Paul Heath, says McVeigh’s statement makes it clear he remains unrepentant and still considers himself a revolutionary. During the proceeding, Matsch asks McVeigh for permission to release a letter McVeigh wrote to him on June 22, which asked that Jones be replaced by other lawyers from the defense team for his appeals: Richard Burr, Robert Nigh Jr., and Randall Coyne. The letter was not specific about McVeigh’s reason for requesting Jones’s removal, but cited “problems and difficulties I have had with my appointed counsel in the past.” McVeigh will publicly blame Jones for “screwing up” his trial, and has reportedly told a Buffalo News reporter that he believes Jones repeatedly lied to him about unnamed aspects of the trial (see August 14-27, 1997). Jones merely reminds reporters: “I did not seek this appointment. I am, as I said, a draftee” (see May 8, 1995). [New York Times, 8/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 320; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006] McVeigh will later explain his choice of quote to Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel. “I want people to think about the statement,” McVeigh will say. “What [lead prosecutor Joseph] Hartzler is trying to do is not have people learn. He wants to have them put their heads in the sand.” The Brandeis quote, McVeigh will say, reflects on the death penalty: the government says it is wrong for McVeigh to have killed, and yet “now they’re going to kill me. They’re saying that’s an appropriate way to right a wrong?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 321]
Entity Tags: Paul Heath, Lou Michel, Joseph H. Hartzler, Christopher L. Tritico, Patrick M. Ryan, Timothy James McVeigh, Roy Sells, Richard Burr, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Robert Nigh, Jr, Randall Coyne, Louis Brandeis
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), says his lead defense lawyer Stephen Jones “screwed up badly,” accuses Jones of lying to him repeatedly, and says he does not want Jones to continue representing him (see August 14, 1997). The Buffalo News has reported that McVeigh told a reporter: “It’s a cultural clash between us. Jones would be a politician, and I’d be a statesman.… The truth is this guy only succeeded in getting the death sentence and now he doesn’t want to let go.” An appeals court names Robert Nigh Jr., one of McVeigh’s trial lawyers, to be in charge of his appeal. [New York Times, 8/14/1997; New York Times, 8/28/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 319] In a statement given to the press after McVeigh’s sentencing, law professor and appellate lawyer Alan Dershowitz agreed with McVeigh. “When [McVeigh] gets to prison, he’s going to learn that his lawyer did a terrible job,” said Dershowitz. “This is going to be the grist of the eventual appeal. This was an awful, awful defense.… His lawyers seemed to be more interested in their own reputations.” [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] Four days later, Jones agrees to resign as McVeigh’s counsel. Jones denies lying to McVeigh, saying: “No one has lied to Mr. McVeigh on the defense team. Certainly I haven’t lied to him, and I can’t imagine that anybody else” on the defense team has. “I think it would be extremely difficult to represent him in view of these statements he has made that have no basis in fact. He doesn’t have any basis to seek my withdrawal, but I have a basis to seek it.” He refers to McVeigh as a “liar and an ingrate.” McVeigh has said he will leave it to “Congress, the bar, and the judiciary to investigate and discover” the alleged lies and misconduct of Jones. He also has said he bears no ill will towards the jurors who convicted him, stating, “I thought they ruled too much on emotion, but I wanted to convey no personal vendetta against them.” He said some of the prosecution’s evidence against him “was false or some could be reasonably explained by other phenomenon.” [New York Times, 8/19/1997; New York Times, 8/21/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Shortly thereafter, Jones will announce that he has signed a contract to write a book about the trial. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 319] In 1998, the press will report that when McVeigh learned of Jones’s book deal, he considered it a betrayal, and wrote: “Mr. Jones did this without informing me and without my consent. I cannot believe that his account will not be based upon confidential communications. I consider this to be a betrayal.” Jones will respond that McVeigh knew of his book deal, and discussed whether Jones could help his sister Jennifer find an agent to represent her for her own book deal. Jones will write: “I intend to write a book not about Mr. McVeigh, but about my personal experiences of my role and what it was like for me. All the material for this book is either in the court records, the transcripts and exhibits, or in the press. None of it comes from Tim or any source confidential to him.” The writings from McVeigh and Jones will come from documents later unsealed by the court. [New York Times, 2/11/1998]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) concedes that his chances of avoiding execution through an appeal are “slim to none.” In a jailhouse interview published in the Buffalo News, McVeigh says the government’s evidence against him was problematic: “Some of it was false or some could be reasonably explained by other phenomenon.” McVeigh says that lab tests could have shown that the traces of explosive materials found on his clothes when he was arrested came from his own handgun. “What does that tell you about the objectivity of the FBI lab?” he asks (see January 27, 1997). [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
The upcoming trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is expected to be fundamentally different from the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), according to a New York Times analysis. The charges against Nichols will be much the same—eight federal counts of murder and three conspiracy charges—but the case will include different evidence and different witnesses. Nichols was not in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing; according to his lawyer Michael Tigar, Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing conspiracy (see March 1995), and was at his Kansas home with his family on the days preceding the bombing as well as on the morning of the bombing (see May 25 - June 2, 1995). The evidence against Nichols is strong, prosecutors say, but mostly circumstantial. And the case will hinge on evidence not introduced at McVeigh’s trial, including Nichols’s alleged participation in a robbery that prosecutors say helped fund the bombing (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). Much of the evidence that will be introduced against Nichols derives from a nine-hour interview Nichols gave to FBI agents two days after the bombing, when he voluntarily turned himself in for questioning (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Notes from that interview were not allowed to be used in the McVeigh trial because Nichols could not be compelled to testify, but Judge Richard P. Matsch has ruled that they may be introduced against Nichols. Some discrepancies exist between the government’s timeline of events and the evidence, such as an April 16, 1995 telephone call that prosecutors say McVeigh made to Nichols from Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995); that phone call did not come from Oklahoma City, but from an outdoor pay phone near Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe Nichols lied to the FBI about the extent and purpose of his contacts with McVeigh in April 1995. [New York Times, 8/29/1997]
Newsweek reports that accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is using the adjoining cell to his in the Denver Federal Correctional Institution as an office to help prepare his defense. He has the cell jammed with documents as well as a VCR, which he uses to view footage related to the bombing. Nichols, through his attorneys, has already challenged the seating arrangements at the trial; he has asked the judge to keep the two seats next to the jury box open so he can make eye contact with the jurors. [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
A physician and abortion provider in northern New York state is shot in the shoulder while at home. Local police will not identify the victim. It is suspected that the doctor is shot by an anti-abortion protester. [Washington Post, 1998]
Larry Mackey. [Source: Washington Post]Lawyer Larry A. Mackey, the lead prosecutor in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), is profiled by the New York Times. Mackey played what the Times calls “a major, though low-profile role in the first Oklahoma City bombing trial” of Nichols’s co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), and delivered the closing argument in that trial (see May 30, 1997). Mackey had not planned on being involved in the Nichols trial, but honored a request from Attorney General Janet Reno to head the prosecution. McVeigh’s lead lawyer Stephen Jones calls Mackey “very professional,” and says: “He honors his word. If he tells you something, you can bank on it.” Former US Attorney Gerald D. Fines says of Mackey, “He is the most thorough and best-prepared lawyer I have seen in the government or private practice.” [New York Times, 11/1/1997]
The federal trial of Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) begins. As with Nichols’s accused co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh, recently convicted of murder and conspiracy surrounding the bombing (see June 2, 1997), the trial takes place in Denver, and is presided over by Judge Richard P. Matsch. Nichols faces the same eight counts of murdering federal officials and three counts of conspiracy that McVeigh was convicted of, and like McVeigh, he faces the death penalty if convicted. [New York Times, 11/4/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury consists of seven women and five men. It includes two bus drivers; a day-care worker; a bank clerk; a soda machine installer; a telemarketer; a loading-dock worker; a maintenance employee; an obstetrics nurse; a remedial reading tutor; a contract seamstress, whose husband is a corrections officer; and a geophysicist. Two members of the jury are African-American. As with the McVeigh jurors, their identities are concealed. Legal analysts say there is far less direct evidence of Nichols’s guilt than existed to use against McVeigh. [Washington Post, 10/31/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Prosecutors tell the jury that Nichols worked “side by side” with McVeigh to build the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building. For his part, Nichols’s lawyer Michael E. Tigar says Nichols had nothing to do with the bomb plot, and is a victim of McVeigh’s deceit and a web of misleading circumstantial evidence. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey (see October 31, 1997) says that the deceit was on the part of Nichols. Mackey acknowledges that Nichols was at his Herington, Kansas, home on the morning of the bombing: “Terry Nichols had planned it just that way,” he says. But Nichols had been involved in every aspect of building the bomb and plotting the attack. The prosecution’s case is far broader in its scope than the more narrowly focused case against McVeigh (see August 29, 1997). Tigar indicates that he plans to challenge what he calls the “junk science” used by the prosecution to forensically prove Nichols’s involvement in building the bomb. [New York Times, 11/4/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) opens with an array of witnesses, people who either lived through the bombing or who lost family members or friends. Unlike the heart-rending tales told throughout the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), the stories told today are strictly curtailed in order to restrict emotional reactions from jurors. Four jury members weep anyway during the recountings. Judge Richard P. Matsch, ruling in favor of a defense motion, has precluded “overly emotional” testimony, telling jurors this morning, “You have to consider it and not consider the emotions of it.” Matsch explains that testimony from survivors is being introduced only to establish who had died and how their deaths had affected the performance of the federal government, important elements in the indictment (see August 10, 1995), which charges not only murder but also a crime that interfered with interstate commerce. Witnesses stick closely to the bare facts and eschew the emotional stories and vignettes that were prominently featured during McVeigh’s trial. Even so, the testimony of survivor Helena Garrett, who testified during McVeigh’s trial (see April 25, 1997), moves some jurors to tears as she tells of waiting for rescue personnel to find her infant son, Tevin, who died in the blast. She says one child “looked as if she’d been dipped in blood,” and talks of the “line” made “of our babies” by rescue personnel who brought out the dead and injured children from the blasted Murrah Federal Building. [New York Times, 11/5/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) attempts to prove that Nichols bought and stored the fertilizer used to make the bomb. [New York Times, 11/7/1997]
Buying Fertilizer from a Kansas Co-op - The prosecution puts two Kansas men on the stand who, the prosecution says, sold the fertilizer used to bomb the Murrah Federal Building to Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Both salesmen, Jerry Showalter and Frederick A. Schlender Jr., worked at the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson, Kansas, when someone calling himself “Mike Havens” bought 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate in 80 50-pound bags in September and October 1994. Neither Showalter nor Schlender can identify Nichols or McVeigh as the buyer, but both say the buyer was “Havens,” a name federal investigators believe was used by Nichols to buy the fertilizer (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). Both testify that they are certain “Havens” was not McVeigh. And they both say they offered “Havens” a less expensive, more efficient alternative to the ammonium nitrate, which he declined. Investigators found a receipt listing Havens as the buyer of the fertilizer in Nichols’s kitchen after the bombing (see May 1, 1995), a fact testified to by one of the FBI agents who found the receipt. Showalter recalls receiving a telephone call on September 29, 1994 from the manager of another branch of the co-op; the manager said he had a customer looking for two tons of ammonium nitrate. Showalter later sold the fertilizer to “Havens”; he gives a description of the man that could fit Nichols. Schlender testifies that he loaded the first ton of fertilizer on a red trailer pulled by a dark pickup truck with a light-colored camper top. He testifies that “Havens” was alone. Schlender concedes to defense lawyers that his descriptions of “Havens” have varied somewhat over time. He originally told the FBI that “Havens” was six feet tall; now he says that the man was anywhere between 5’8” and six feet tall. He also originally described the truck as a Dodge with Kansas plates; Nichols owned a GMC truck with Michigan plates. Schlender says he sold the second ton of fertilizer to “Havens” on October 18, loading it on the same trailer. The second time, he testifies, “Havens” was accompanied by another man, white and about six feet tall. Robert Nattier, president of the co-op, testifies that the “Havens” order was unusually large, and that most customers just buy a few bags for their lawns. Another FBI agent who analyzed the co-op’s receipts testifies that only a country club and a pipeline company bought similar amounts in the 16 months before the bombing. [New York Times, 11/7/1997; Washington Post, 11/7/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
Nichols Identified as Staying in Nearby Motel - Harry Bhakta, the manager of the Starlite Motel in Salina, Kansas, a town 30 miles north of McPherson, testifies that a man calling himself “Terry Havens” checked into his motel on October 16, 1994, and checked out the next day. Nichols’s lawyers concede that the handwriting on the Starlite Motel registration card is Nichols’s (see October 16, 1994). [New York Times, 11/7/1997]
Renting Storage Lockers for Fertilizer - Sharri Furman, who in 1995 was the bookkeeper for the Boots-U-Store-It storage facility in Council Grove, Kansas, testifies that in the fall of 1994 she rented two storage lockers to “Joe Kyle” and “Ted Parker,” both of which are, federal investigators contend, aliases used by Nichols (see October 16, 1994, October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994). Furman also testified during McVeigh’s trial (see May 1-2, 1997). She identifies Nichols as “Parker.” Both defense and prosecution lawyers agree that the contracts signed by “Parker” are in Nichols’s handwriting. [Washington Post, 11/7/1997] The receipt from the locker rental contains two fingerprints from McVeigh (see May 1, 1995). [New York Times, 6/3/1997]
Seen in Company of McVeigh during Time Period in Question - Tim Donahue, a Kansas rancher who once worked with Nichols (see February - September 30, 1994), testifies that the last time he saw Nichols was in the company of McVeigh. The date, he recalls, was September 30, 1994, the last day Nichols worked on the Donahue ranch. Donahue also testifies that Nichols told him he thought the government was getting “too big and too powerful” and should be overthrown. Donahue acknowledges that those conversations were casual, and that Nichols never explicitly advocated violence. [Washington Post, 11/7/1997]
Prosecutors in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) link Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), to the October 1994 theft of explosive materials from a Kansas quarry (see October 3, 1994). The prosecution claims that Nichols and McVeigh used those materials in the construction of the bomb that devastated the Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people. A blaster at the Martin Marietta Aggregates quarry near Marion, Kansas, Allen E. Radtke, testifies that on October 3, he discovered that someone had stolen 1,200 to 1,400 electric blasting caps, 75 60-foot lengths of Primadet non-electric blasting caps, and 150 sticks of Tovex explosive from two sheds. On October 4, Radtke says, he found that someone had drilled open the padlock on the back door of a third shed. FBI analyst James J. Cadigan testifies that he had compared the marks left on the padlock with a quarter-inch drill bit found at Nichols’s home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Though the marks on the padlock seem to match marks made by Nichols’s drill bit, Judge Richard P. Matsch instructs the jury to disregard Cadigan’s conclusions to that effect. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar, who has called such analysis “junk science” (see November 3, 1997), says that a thousand drill bits made by the same machine might produce the same marks. [New York Times, 11/8/1997]
Lawyers for Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), are expected to mount an insanity defense, according to the Washington Post. Kaczynski’s two lead defense attorneys are Quin Denvir, a federal public defender who has won reversals of three guilty verdicts in death penalty cases, and Judy Clarke, who convinced a South Carolina jury not to execute a woman who drowned her two children in a lake. Denvir and Clarke will argue that Kaczynski is mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia that diminished his capacity to know right from wrong. Few expect Kaczynski to be found innocent of his alleged crimes; the lawyers’ strategy seems to be to keep Kaczynski from being sentenced to death. “I think it’s pretty clear that the defense is going to introduce the issue of mental disturbance one way or another,” says Paul Mattiuzzi, a forensic psychologist in Sacramento, California, who has testified in other mental defect cases. “The evidence of mental defect may be important in the guilt phase. But it may be even more valuable in the punishment phase [if he is found guilty], when the government is going to portray him as the embodiment of evil and the defense will want to argue that he’s not evil, he’s sick.” Legal experts agree. “This is what I suspect is really is going on,” says law professor Peter Arenella, an expert on insanity and diminished capacity defense. “All sorts of mitigating evidence might be presented to show that he’s a strange bird, not someone we should execute, because he’s crazy as a loon.” Prison authorities describe Kaczynski, currently being held at a federal prison in Sacramento (see June 9, 1996), as a “model prisoner” who reads incessantly. He is kept in isolation and is in his cell 23 hours a day. However, Kaczynski has so far refused to submit to psychiatric evaluation by government doctors. His refusal may hinder his lawyers’ ability to present evidence towards his mental state. The prosecution is expected to argue that Kaczynski is a cold, calculating killer who knew exactly what he was doing when he killed three people and injured 29 others. He is not charged with murder specifically, but with transporting and mailing explosive devices with the intent to kill and injure. [Washington Post, 11/9/1997]
Michael Fortier, a friend of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), testifies against McVeigh’s alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997). Fortier tells the jury that Nichols and McVeigh took him to an Arizona storage locker filled with explosives seven months before the bombing (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). Fortier has pleaded guilty to four felonies related to the bombing.
Saw Nichols in McVeigh's Company, Changes Testimony Previously Identifying Nichols as Co-Conspirator - He says he saw Nichols three times in Kingman, Arizona, the town in which McVeigh resided; two of those times, Nichols was in the company of McVeigh. Fortier testifies that he met both Nichols and McVeigh when they were Army soldiers stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990); Nichols, he says, was his platoon leader, but not his friend. Fortier says McVeigh sent him a letter saying that he and Nichols planned some sort of “positive offensive action” against the government (see September 13, 1994), and later McVeigh told him the “action” was the bombing of a federal building, to take place on the anniversary of the Branch Davidian massacre (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He told me… that they were planning on bombing a building,” Fortier says. When asked by a prosecutor who was the “they” that McVeigh was referring to, Fortier replies, “He didn’t say specifically,” a drastic change from his testimony in the McVeigh trial, when he told the jury that McVeigh was referring to himself and Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
Says McVeigh Told Him Nichols Robbed Gun Dealer - Fortier does identify Nichols as the man who robbed Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994); Fortier says that McVeigh told him, “Terry did Bob,” meaning “Bob Miller,” the name Moore used at gun shows. [New York Times, 12/16/1997]
Says He Refused to Take Active Part in Bombing, Says Nichols Withdrew - Fortier testifies that McVeigh asked him to rent a storage unit under a false name, but Fortier did not do so. He also testifies that McVeigh asked him to join him and Nichols in the bombing, but Fortier says he refused (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Later, Fortier says, McVeigh told him that Nichols “no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb” (see March 1995), testifying: “Tim told me that Terry no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb. He told me that there was some problem between—or the problem had to do with Terry’s wife, Marife. I asked Tim what he was going to do if Terry didn’t help him. I made a joke and said: ‘What would you do? Would you kill him if he doesn’t help you?’ And he answered me seriously and said he would not do that. And he went on to say that Terry would have to help him because he’s in it so far up till now.” Fortier identifies a length of explosives brought to his home for safekeeping by McVeigh as being from one of the Arizona storage lockers; an FBI expert, testifying immediately after Fortier, identifies a fingerprint on the wrapper for the explosives as belonging to Nichols.
Defense: Fortier a Lying Drug Addict - In cross-examination, Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, elicits that Nichols never mentioned anything to Fortier about bombing a building. As defense lawyers did in McVeigh’s trial, Tigar depicts Fortier as a drug user and self-admitted liar who has admitted to lying to FBI investigators about his knowledge and involvement in the bomb plot (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), and to planning to use his knowledge of the bomb plot to wangle profitable book and movie deals. Fortier admits that Tigar’s depictions are essentially accurate. Tigar asks, “Was there ever a time in your life where Mr. McVeigh and you and Mr. Nichols were standing side by side… when Mr. McVeigh said, ‘My friend Terry and I are going to blow up a building with people in it and kill people?’” Fortier replies, “No, sir.” [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997] Legal experts later say that Fortier’s testimony against Nichols is much less compelling than his testimony against McVeigh. Fortier did not know Nichols well, and had comparatively few dealings with him. [New York Times, 11/17/1997] The Washington Post describes the defense’s cross-examination of Fortier as “withering.” One of the defense’s contentions is that Fortier was far more involved in the bomb plot than his testimony indicates, and that he may have been more involved than Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/14/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) links Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), to a rifle stolen from an Arkansas gun dealer, Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). Prosecutors have alleged that Nichols and McVeigh, who planned the robbery, used the proceeds from the robbery to finance the bombing. The link between Nichols and the robbery is made in part by Karen Anderson, Moore’s longtime girlfriend, who says the ornate, custom-made .308-caliber rifle found in Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) was hers. She says when prosecutors first showed her the rifle, she exclaimed: “It’s my baby!… It was made for me.” Anderson says she has been Moore’s girlfriend for over 20 years, and lives in what is apparently an open relationship with Moore and his wife Carol. Prosecutors say Nichols donned a ski mask and robbed Moore’s gun dealership of more than $60,000 in guns, precious jewels, gold, silver, cash, and other items. Anderson says she recognized several other weapons seized by FBI agents from Nichols’s home. Of one, a shotgun, she says: “I shot a pair of blue jeans with this a couple of times. Jeans with holes cost $100. I figured if you shot them yourself, you could save about $90.” Anderson’s colorful testimony and flamboyant gestures trigger several waves of laughter in the courtroom, including one instance where she apologizes for inadvertently waving a submachine gun at Judge Richard P. Matsch, saying, “I just pointed it at the judge again!” Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson quips in response, “No matter how mad he makes you, don’t fire it.” Anderson says she has a list of the serial numbers of many of the stolen guns; Moore previously told investigators his list of the serial numbers disappeared the day of the robbery. Anderson also discusses her friendship with McVeigh, and says she and Moore were so impressed with McVeigh’s warnings about a United Nations plot to take over the country that they visited several military bases in an unsuccessful search for Russian vehicles. After Anderson testifies, Moore testifies, telling the jury how he was robbed by a man who carried a shotgun, wore a black ski mask, and bound him with duct tape before purloining items from his farm, from which he runs his dealership. He says he was alone on his farm the morning of the robbery, and had just gone outside to feed the animals when he heard a voice say, “Lay on the ground.” He turned and saw “a horrible picture, a man dressed with camouflage, with a black ski mask, carrying a pistol-grip shotgun aimed right at my face.” Attached to the shotgun was a garrote wire that he says could “cut your windpipe and jugular vein.” The robber was a white man wearing what he thinks were Israeli combat boots, Vietnam-era camouflage pants and shirt, and military gloves. Moore says he could see a short beard and suntanned skin through the mouth opening in the mask. He identifies a number of weapons shown to him by prosecution lawyers as being among those stolen from his dealership. Defense lawyer Michael Tigar accuses Moore of conspiring with McVeigh to commit insurance fraud. Tigar asks Moore: “Isn’t it a fact you were not robbed? Isn’t it a fact that you and Mr. McVeigh worked out a plan to get these guns out on the market, and you would collect whatever you could from the insurance company?” Moore angrily responds, “I deny that.” He admits to seeking an insurance settlement even though he had no serial numbers for the stolen weaponry, nor an accurate accounting of the weapons he said had been stolen. He also acknowledges telling investigators differing accounts of the robbery, and engaging in friendly letter exchanges with McVeigh after the robbery, including one letter written by Moore in the days before the bombing that complained of the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) and stated, “Plan is to bring the country down and have a few more things happen, then offer the 90 percent a solution (Better Red than Dead).” He also admits to using the alias “Bob Miller” on the gun-show circuit, and admits to previously telling lawyers that he suspected law enforcement agents or militia members of robbing him. However, he says, he also suspected McVeigh of setting him up, and says that the letters were designed to persuade McVeigh to come back to Arkansas so he could question him about the robbery. [New York Times, 11/18/1997; New York Times, 11/19/1997]
The ex-wife of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) testifies in Nichols’s trial. Lana Padilla, frequently breaking into tears during her stint in the witness stand, testifies that Nichols gave her a package that he told her not to open unless she heard that he had died; worried for his safety, she opened it anyway and found letters and evidence that prosecutors say tie Nichols to the Oklahoma City bombing. Nichols gave Padilla the package in the days before he left on a trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). He told her to wait at least 60 days before opening the package, but she opened it the day after he left. “I was concerned that there was something awful, that he was not coming back,” she says. Inside were two envelopes, one addressed to her and one addressed to Jennifer McVeigh, the sister of his alleged co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). The letter to Padilla explained how she could gain entry to a storage unit Nichols had rented in Las Vegas, Padilla’s home town, and how she could find a bag of valuables he had hidden in her kitchen. All of the items in storage, Nichols wrote, were for their teenaged son Joshua, while the items in the kitchen were for his daughter Nicole, whom he had with his second wife Marife, a Filipino native (see July - December 1990). A tearful Padilla reads from the letter: “There is no need to tell anyone about the items in storage and at home. Again only the three of us will know. I have the most trust in you here in the US to do as I’ve written.” Nichols, sitting at the defense table, puts his head down and weeps during the letter-reading. The envelope to Jennifer McVeigh contained a second envelope addressed to her brother that advised him to remove everything from a Council Grove, Kansas, locker and “liquidate” the contents of a second locker in that same town (see October 17, 1994), or failing that, to pay to keep it longer under the alias “Ted Parker” of Decker, Michigan. “Ted Parker” is an alias used by Nichols to rent one of the lockers (see November 7, 1994). The letter says Padilla “knows nothing” and concludes with the exhortation: “Your [sic] on your own. Go for it!! Terry.” Prosecutors believe that Nichols’s final exhortation referred to the Oklahoma City bombing. In December 1994, Padilla found the item Nichols had stashed in her kitchen: a WalMart bag filled with $20,000 in $100 bills. Padilla testifies: “My first reaction was surprise, because I didn’t really think—I mean, Terry was in between employment. His wife was away. I didn’t expect him to have any money.” Later that day, Padilla and her son Barry (from another marriage) went to the AAAABCO storage unit in Las Vegas that Nichols had indicated, and the two found a briefcase and a number of boxes. The boxes contained gold and silver coins, and a paper estimating their value at between $36,000 and $38,000; a bag containing a dark wig, panty hose, makeup, and a black ski mask; a cigar box containing jade stones; and other items. Many of those items will later be identified as proceeds from the robbery. When she saw the bag, she testifies: “I looked at the mask, and I thought that—I said: ‘What is he doing? You know, what is he doing? Robbing banks?’ And that was my reaction.” Prosecutors believe that the cash in the kitchen and the goods in the storage unit were obtained by a robbery Nichols had carried off days before (see November 5, 1994). Padilla also testifies that Nichols called her the day after the robbery, November 6, 1994, and spoke of the Branch Davidian debacle near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), and the possibility that the government would be destabilized by civil unrest (see November 6, 1994). “When I hung up the phone,” she testifies, “I realized that it was a very odd conversation. And I’m sorry to say that Waco didn’t enter my mind before the call and Waco didn’t enter my mind after the call. It was just something that seemed to be on Terry’s mind.” Nichols came to Padilla’s home in Las Vegas a few days later, she says, in order to visit Joshua before leaving for the Philippines. When Nichols returned from the Philippines on January 16, 1995, he stayed for a few days with Padilla before leaving for Kansas. Padilla testifies that on January 17: “Terry was standing in the kitchen. He looked at me puzzled. I knew the look was because he had gone behind the drawer” and not found the cash he had left. Padilla had taken the cash to her office for safekeeping, she testifies, and asked Nichols to give her some of it. He refused, she says, and she turned over $17,000 of the money to him. They agreed that she would put the remaining $3,000 in a savings account for Joshua, but she admits to not doing so. “Things changed in my household,” she testifies. She left her current husband, and, she says, “the money was used for the household.” [Washington Post, 11/19/1997; New York Times, 11/20/1997]
FBI agent Stephen E. Smith testifies in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997).
Nichols Told of Picking Up McVeigh - Smith testifies that Nichols told him and other FBI agents that on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1995, three days before the bombing, he drove around downtown Oklahoma City looking for his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Nichols, says Smith, drove around the Murrah Federal Building, McVeigh’s target, several times before finding McVeigh in a nearby alley (see April 16-17, 1995). McVeigh, according to what Nichols told Smith, had asked Nichols for a ride from Oklahoma City back to Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see (February 20, 1995)) because his car had broken down. Nichols found McVeigh, Smith says: “[H]e was standing in a light rain with Mr. Nichols’s TV set and a green laundry bag.” Smith was one of the agents who interrogated Nichols for nine hours after the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). He was not allowed to testify in McVeigh’s trial, but was allowed to introduce the 22 pages of handwritten notes taken during Nichols’s interrogation. Smith’s testimony is the first to describe what Nichols said about the trip from Oklahoma City to Herington. McVeigh was going to bring Nichols a television set, Nichols told Smith, when his car broke down. Nichols said after he received the telephone call from McVeigh at around 3 p.m., he left about 10 minutes later and drove straight to Oklahoma City. McVeigh had told him to “drive around the block a couple times,” Nichols told the agents, and added that he passed “that building” several times. The alley McVeigh was standing in was, Smith testifies, next to the YMCA near the Murrah Building. Nichols told Smith and the other agents that McVeigh was “hyper” during the return trip to Herington, and they talked about the upcoming anniversary of the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Nichols told the agents that McVeigh told him “he would see something big in the future.” Nichols, Smith testifies, asked if McVeigh was planning to rob a bank; McVeigh replied, “No, but I’ve got something in the works.” Nichols was shocked to learn that McVeigh was a suspect in the bombing, Smith testifies: “He thought Tim was driving back east to see his family.” Nichols told the agents he could not discern any motive for the bombing, since McVeigh “was supposed to receive an inheritance from his grandfather and he would have money” to do whatever he wanted. Smith testifies that when the agents asked Nichols if he was worried about what McVeigh might say about him, Nichols replied that “he’d be shocked if Mr. McVeigh implicated him.… Terry Nichols said he trusted Timothy McVeigh more than anyone. Timothy McVeigh lived up to his arrangements and took responsibility for his actions.” Smith adds that Nichols never clarified what he meant. Nichols told the agents that the Easter telephone call was the first contact he had had with McVeigh since November 1994. However, other testimony has shown numerous contacts between McVeigh and Nichols since that time period (see November 7, 1994, March 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, and April 15-16, 1995). [New York Times, 11/21/1997] Nichols also told federal agents that he spent the morning of April 18 at an auction in Fort Riley, Kansas, and that the same morning, McVeigh had borrowed his pickup truck to run errands. Nichols told agents that the morning of April 18, McVeigh called at 6:00 a.m. and asked to borrow the truck. Nichols agreed, and the two met at a McDonald’s restaurant in Junction City, Kansas, around 7:30 a.m. The two drove to the auction site, and McVeigh took the truck, leaving Nichols at the auction. McVeigh returned after 1:00 p.m. Nichols told agents he signed in at the auction site sometime around noon. [New York Times, 11/26/1997]
Story Contradicted by Other Evidence - Other evidence has shown that Nichols’s story about driving to Oklahoma City to pick up McVeigh and a television set is false. That evidence has shown that on April 16, Nichols met McVeigh at a Dairy Queen in Herington, then the two drove separately to Oklahoma City to scout the location for the bomb. McVeigh left his getaway car at the scene (see April 13, 1995) and the two drove back to Herington in Nichols’s pickup truck (see April 16-17, 1995). On the morning of April 18, McVeigh, staying at a motel in Junction City with his rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995), met Nichols at a Herington storage unit (see (February 20, 1995)). The two loaded bags of fertilizer and drums of nitromethane into the Ryder truck, and McVeigh told Nichols, “If I don’t come back for a while, you’ll clean out the storage shed.” They drove separately to Geary County State Fishing Lake, where they met and mixed the explosive components. Nichols later told investigators that he cleaned out the storage shed on April 20. One witness told investigators that he saw McVeigh with a man resembling Nichols at the motel. Other witnesses recalled seeing the Ryder truck parked behind Nichols’s house on April 17, and the Ryder truck and a pickup truck resembling Nichols’s at Geary Lake on April 18. Other witnesses said that on either April 17 or 18, they saw what appeared to be Nichols’s pickup truck parked behind the Herington storage shed (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Videotape from the Regency Towers Apartments, one and a half blocks from the bombed Murrah Federal Building, showed Nichols’s dark blue pickup with a white camper shell passing the building on April 16, though the videotape does not itself disprove Nichols’s claims of driving to Oklahoma City to pick up McVeigh and a television set. [Denver Post, 12/24/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Prosecutors will soon submit evidence showing that Nichols’s claims of his whereabouts on April 18 are incorrect (see November 25, 1997).
Shared Interest in Bombs - Nichols also said that he and McVeigh were curious about bombs. They read books and magazines about them, and discussed how they worked. Nichols told the agents that “it’s possible he [McVeigh] could make a device to blow up a building without my knowledge.” Nichols, Smith testifies, insisted that their interest in bombs was strictly out of curiosity. Nichols told Smith and the other agents that he had learned about explosives from people “who came by the table at gun shows and literature he had read.” Nichols also said that he had learned “ammonium nitrate fertilizer can be used to make a bomb.… I imagine you have to put a blasting cap on it.” Smith testifies that someone had informed Nichols that ammonium nitrate could be mixed with diesel fuel to make a bomb, but adds that Nichols said he had not done that.
Cross-Examination - Nichols’s defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, has Smith read the entire 22-page sheaf of handwritten notes he took during his interviews with Nichols, then tells Judge Richard P. Matsch that the typewritten transcript of those notes “was not accurate or complete.” Woods also questions why the interviews were not tape-recorded. Smith calls his notes accurate, but admits that he had not written down what he now testifies was Nichols’s silence when shown a letter he had written to McVeigh the previous November urging him to “Go for it.” During the interview, Smith says Nichols admitted to having the knowledge needed to build a fertilizer bomb after initially denying it. [Washington Post, 11/21/1997; New York Times, 11/22/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
As the prosecution in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) prepares to rest its case, the prosecuting lawyers attempt to show that Nichols lied about his whereabouts on the day the Oklahoma City bomb was built (see November 20-21, 1997). Nichols claimed that the day the bomb was assembled, April 18, 1995, he was at an auction in Fort Riley, Kansas, from 8:00 a.m. until after 1:00 p.m., while his alleged co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), had borrowed his truck. Prosecutors introduce evidence that shows Nichols and McVeigh worked together to build the bomb in an isolated section of Geary Lake State Park, 16 miles from Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Nichols has not yet testified; his version of events comes from statements he gave to FBI agents two days after the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Mary Garza, a civilian employee at Fort Riley and the overseer of the auction that Nichols claimed he attended, produces a document that shows Nichols signed in to the auction at 12:50 p.m. that afternoon, and another document showing that he submitted a sealed bid at 12:37 p.m. on March 18, 1995. Garza testifies that the time clock was off by one month and one hour, and in reality Nichols submitted his bid at 1:37 p.m. on April 18, 1995. Nichols said he wandered from one auction building to the next, but other witnesses testify that the morning of April 18 was extremely cold and windy, and only one building was open to the public. Visitors such as Nichols were required to sign in. Nichols could conceivably have spent five hours outside, examining two small outdoor sales areas, the witnesses say, but the sale was quite small, and none of the witnesses saw Nichols that morning. [New York Times, 11/26/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) submits a piece of wood into evidence that it says links Nichols to the bombing. The piece of wood has ammonium nitrate fertilizer crystals embedded in it, the same type of fertilizer used in the bomb that killed 168 people. The same fertilizer was found at Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). The wood was found by a search team on April 21, 1995, in a parking lot across the street from the Murrah Federal Building. Prosecutors say the wood came from the side of the rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) that convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) used to deliver the bomb. FBI agent Alton Wilson testifies that “it appears to have come from the box panel from the Ryder truck.” FBI laboratory supervisor Steven G. Burmeister testifies that when he and other FBI agents searched Nichols’s home, they found explosives, including ammonium nitrate pellets. Ammonium nitrate is the fertilizer that was the main ingredient of the bomb. “They were on the steps leading up to the porch area,” Burmeister testifies. He also says the search turned up Primadet blasting caps, which are used to detonate explosives. Defense lawyers claim the wood was mishandled by FBI crime lab analysts; FBI chemist Ronald Kelly admits in testimony that he did not follow the proper steps in recovering and handling the wood. [New York Times, 11/29/1997] In cross-examination testimony, Burmeister says that he photographed the wood in April 1995, documenting the existence of the ammonium nitrate crystals embedded in it. When he examined the wood in November 1996, he realized that the crystals had disappeared from it. Burmeister says he believes the crystals disappeared as a result of testing in other sections of the lab. [New York Times, 12/2/1997]
Experts testify in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) that the bomb used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was probably made with ammonium nitrate. Prosecutors have shown that Nichols bought two tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and stored it, along with other bomb components, in lockers rented under false names (see November 6, 1997). In aggressive cross-examination, defense lawyer Michael Tigar attempts to cast doubt on the forensic evidence presented by the experts. FBI laboratory supervisor Steven G. Burmeister, who has already defended his findings on ammonium nitrate crystals found in a shard of wood he and other experts believe was from the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see November 28 - December 2, 1997), admits that nitromethane that, according to an FBI report, was found in Nichols’s home might have come from a container of model airplane fuel. Burmeister says that the evidence of nitromethane was found near model airplane parts; nitromethane is used in model airplane fuel. “When you reported out your results, did you report that you had found model airplane fuel and a model airplane?” Tigar asks, and Burmeister replies, “No.” Tigar then emphasizes: “You just reported you had found nitromethane. Right?” Burmeister responds, “The result was nitromethane and methanol.” Tigar continues to press, saying: “But did you take steps to make sure that people were going to understand that this was found right next to some model airplane parts? Did you do that?” Burmeister says he did not. British explosive expert Linda Jones, who testified in the trial of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), says she believes the bomb weighed 3,000 to 6,000 pounds and contained ammonium nitrate. Its other elements were apparently consumed in the explosion. The prosecution has called Jones as an independent expert because of widespread criticism of the FBI laboratory and its employees (see January 27, 1997 and April 16, 1997). [New York Times, 12/2/1997]
The prosecution concludes its case against accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) with a gripping story by Marine Captain Matthew Cooper, telling of his attempts to rescue colleagues from the rubble of the devastated Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Legal experts say the prosecution presented a convincing, but not necessarily overwhelming, case against Nichols, who is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder and four counts of conspiracy related to the bombing. Nichols’s co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh, has already been sentenced to death for the crime (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Essentially, the prosecution used a mountain of circumstantial evidence to tie Nichols to the crime, even though he was not in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing (see April 16-17, 1995). Law professor Christopher Mueller says, “There is a huge combination of circumstances that connect Nichols to McVeigh just as there was a huge combination of circumstances connecting McVeigh to the bombing.” Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says: “If the jurors followed the prosecution’s story, then Nichols is in big trouble. But the defense has already done a good job showing that there are inconsistencies and contradictions and those could be enough to hang a jury.” Analysts say the prosecutors were less successful in introducing emotion into the Nichols trial than the prosecutors in the McVeigh trial. And prosecution eyewitnesses such as Cooper and Michael Fortier (see November 12-13, 1997) were less effective in this trial than they were in testifying against McVeigh. Nichols’s defense lawyers have successfully challenged the prosecution’s attempts to have witnesses like Cooper tell graphic and emotionally wrenching stories; today, Cooper’s testimony is brief and matter-of-fact, whereas during his testimony in McVeigh’s trial, he was detailed and emotional, breaking into tears during his stint on the stand. Also, analysts say, the prosecution was not entirely successful in portraying Nichols’s motive for taking part in the bomb plot. [Washington Post, 12/3/1997]
The defense in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) opens with an array of witnesses designed to cast doubt on Nichols’s alleged participation in the Oklahoma City bombing plot with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Three witnesses testify that in the days before the bomb destroyed an Oklahoma City federal building, they saw McVeigh in the company of a man who has become known as “John Doe No. 2,” a person that some believe conspired with McVeigh to build and deliver the bomb. Prosecutors believe that “John Doe No. 2” was an Army soldier who had no involvement with McVeigh (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Defense lawyers assert that McVeigh conspired with “John Doe No. 2” and not their client. Eldon Elliott, who owns the Junction City, Kansas, shop where McVeigh rented the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995), testifies that he rented the Ryder truck to McVeigh, and that when McVeigh picked up the truck on April 17 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), he was accompanied by a man who was not Nichols. Estella Weigel, a health worker, then testifies that she was driving south on Interstate 135 near McPherson, Kansas, sometime between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on April 18 when she had to slow down for a large Ryder truck following closely behind a beige car that “reminded me of my sister’s ‘78 Mercury.” McVeigh had just bought a similar car, which prosecutors say he used for his getaway (see April 13, 1995). Weigel noted that the car had no license plates, and later realized that the driver resembled the sketch of “John Doe No. 2.” There were two men in the truck, she says, neither of whom were Nichols. Prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh were at that time on their way to Geary County State Fishing Lake to assemble the bomb. A third witness, obstetrical nurse Mary Martinez, tells the jury she saw McVeigh driving a large Ryder truck in Junction City on the morning of April 18; a man she thought was “Mexican” was in the passenger seat. Under cross-examination, Martinez admits that her story has changed dramatically: she originally described a smaller Ryder truck with a red-haired driver, and said the passenger stood up in the cab of the truck. [Washington Post, 12/4/1997; New York Times, 12/4/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
The mother of a woman killed in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) issues an angry statement demanding that accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see November 3, 1997) testify in his own defense. Marsha Kight, the mother of 22-year-old Frankie Ann Merrell, who died in the bombing, is incensed at media reports that Nichols will probably not testify in his own defense. Lead defense lawyer Michael Tigar says that while no final decision as to Nichols’s testimony has yet been made, his client is under no obligation to take the stand. [New York Times, 12/5/1997]
Defense lawyers continue their attempt to show that their client, accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), was not involved in the conspiracy to bomb the Murrah Federal Building (see December 2-3, 1997), but that others besides Nichols worked with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Two witnesses, James L. Sergent and Georgia Rucker, testify that they saw a large Ryder truck parked at Geary State Fishing Lake, north of Herington, Kansas, where Nichols lives, on April 10, 11, and 12, 1995. Prosecutors say that McVeigh and Nichols brought a Ryder truck to that lake on April 18 to assemble the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Rucker says she saw the same truck at the lake on April 18. Their testimony is designed to bolster the contention that more than just two people took part in building the bomb (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Defense lawyers also challenge the credibility of Roger E. Moore, an Arkansas gun dealer whom prosecutors say was robbed by Nichols as part of an attempt to finance the bomb construction (see November 17-18, 1997 and November 19, 1997). Defense witness Larry Hethcox says that Moore later told him the robber took many more items than he originally claimed in police reports. However, the prosecution forces Hethcox to acknowledge that the serial number of one of the guns found in Nichols’s house (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) was of a gun Hethcox sold to Moore. [New York Times, 12/5/1997]
The defense in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) mounts an attack on Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator, convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Nichols’s lawyers present evidence showing that McVeigh is an anti-government zealot who passed out extremist literature and even wore a T-shirt showing a wanted poster for Abraham Lincoln to a child’s birthday party—the same shirt he wore the day of the bombing. Witnesses testify that McVeigh gave them copies of the same anti-government literature found in the home of Nichols during an FBI search (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Defense lawyers say that Nichols was just one of many people to whom McVeigh gave such literature, and that McVeigh was a far more committed extremist than Nichols. The defense introduces a letter McVeigh wrote to “S.C.,” a person the FBI believes to be Steven Garrett Colbern, a drifter with a degree in biochemistry and an interest in explosives, though investigators quickly cleared Colbern of any involvement in the bombing plot (see May 12, 1995). The letter was taped to an electrical tower in the California desert, near the Arizona state line, and found by electrical worker Donald E. Pipins (see November 30, 1994). The letter says in part: “I’m not looking for talkers. I’m looking for fighters,” men who could share “a common, righteous goal.” Pipins testifies to his finding the letter. [Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 12/6/1997]
The defense in the Terry Nichols bombing conspiracy trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) presents an array of witnesses who say they saw convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) in the company of someone besides Nichols in the days before the bombing. The defense intends to portray the still-unidentified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 29, 1995) as McVeigh’s accomplice, and not Nichols. Government officials have long claimed that “John Doe No. 2” was a misidentification by witnesses of a person who had no involvement in the bomb plot, Private Todd Bunting of Fort Riley, Kansas (see June 14, 1995). Prosecutors say that those witnesses who claim to have seen “John Doe No. 2” might have seen Bunting or other Fort Riley soldiers with other Ryder trucks aside from that used by McVeigh to deliver the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), or were influenced by the wanted poster.
Dishwasher Resembled Sketch - Darvin Ray Bates, the former mayor of Waurika, Oklahoma, says in May 1995 he hired a drifter to work as a dishwasher in his Duncan, Oklahoma restaurant. The drifter resembled the sketch federal officials circulated of “John Doe No. 2,” Bates testifies. He says, “I could never pronounce his name, and he said, ‘Just call me John’.” Bates says the man told him he was from Kingman, Arizona, the same town where McVeigh lived. In the days after the bombing, Bates testifies, he told “John” that he looked like the sketch of “John Doe No. 2,” and the man never returned to work. Bates informed the FBI of the encounter, but, he says, an agent told him “they had the two arrested that they needed in the case, and if they needed additional information they could call me.” No one from the FBI contacted Bates again.
Saw Man Accompanying McVeigh One Hour before Bombing - Morris John Kuper, Jr, a computer specialist, testifies that on April 21, two days after the bombing, he told FBI agents that he saw two men getting into an old car across the street from his parking lot at the Kerr-McGee Corporation in Oklahoma City about an hour before the April 19 bombing. One man looked like McVeigh, he testifies, while the other resembled “John Doe No. 2.” Kuper says it took months for FBI agents to contact him about his sighting. Obstetrical nurse Mary Martinez has already testified about seeing McVeigh and “John Doe No. 2” in a Ryder truck in Junction City, Kansas two days before the bombing; prosecutors were able to cast strong doubts upon her story (see December 2-3, 1997).
Sightings of Man At Motel - Hilda Sostre, a maid at the Dreamland Motel, where McVeigh stayed for four days before the bombing, testifies she saw a man resembling “John Doe No. 2” at the motel on April 17, two days before the bombing. She says she saw him walking towards a large Ryder truck. If accurate, Sostre’s sighting conflicts with the prosecution’s assertion that McVeigh did not bring the truck to the motel until much later that day. Shane M. Boyd, who was staying at the Dreamland, testifies that he saw a man resembling “John Doe No. 2” at the motel on Saturday, April 15. Boyd says he passed the man while walking back to his room (see April 13, 1995).
Store Worker Saw McVeigh, Man Together - Rose Mary Zinn says that on April 17, she was working alone in a store in Lincolnville, Kansas, when two men came in. “One was blond and white, and the other one was a dark-complected guy,” she testifies. “The dark-colored guy looked mean. So I know this might sound silly, but I thought, uh-oh, I’m going to be robbed.” Instead of robbing her, they bought cigarettes and soda and left. She says she watched them get into a large Ryder truck. She cannot testify to the men’s features, and says the blond man was shorter than his companion; McVeigh is described as being significantly taller than “John Doe No. 2.”
Father and Son Saw Two Men at Lake - Raymond Siek, who was returning from a funeral on the afternoon of April 17, says he noticed a Ryder truck at Geary State Fishing Lake, the place where prosecutors say the bomb was built on April 18. Siek testifies that he saw two men, and turned to his son, Kevin Siek, and observed, “I wonder what those idiots are doing down there in the rain.” Kevin Siek also testifies: his story is that he saw three men that day, with the third being shorter and perhaps an adolescent.
Other Sightings - On April 17, two people working at the body shop that rented McVeigh the Ryder truck, Eldon Elliott and Vicki Beemer, have said they saw McVeigh and another man in the shop, but neither can describe the second man. Estella Weigel, a health care worker, has already testified she saw a man who looked like “John Doe No. 2” driving an old Mercury similar in year and color to one owned by McVeigh sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. on April 17 (see December 2-3, 1997). [New York Times, 12/10/1997]
Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Vicki Beemer, Estella Weigel, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Darvin Ray Bates, Todd David Bunting, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Shane Boyd, Mary Martinez, Kevin Siek, Eldon Elliott, Hilda Sostre, Raymond Siek, Rose Mary Zinn, Morris John Kuper, Jr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Marife Nichols (see July - December 1990), the wife of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), gives what analysts call a powerful defense of her husband during trial testimony. Her testimony is combined with that of three others to cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertions that Nichols conspired with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to build and detonate the bomb that killed 168 people. The defense, already having attempted to establish that an unidentified person and not Nichols conspired with McVeigh (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), now tries to allege that McVeigh was a member of a much larger conspiracy that federal law-enforcement officials never seriously explored. The indictments against both McVeigh and Nichols say that “persons unknown” may have assisted McVeigh and Nichols in the bomb plot. The Washington Post observes that while the others’ testimonies may have helped Nichols, Nichols’s wife’s testimony may have “done more harm than good.” The New York Times agrees, saying that her testimony “seemed to confirm some of the strongest evidence against him.” [New York Times, 12/11/1997; Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Mechanic Testifies to Seeing Five Men at Bomb Building Site - Charles Farley, a mechanic from Wakefield, Kansas, testifies that on April 18, 1995, around 6:00 p.m., he came across five men and four vehicles, including a large Ryder truck and a farm truck laden with bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, at Geary State Fishing Lake, near Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe that McVeigh and Nichols alone built the bomb at the state park sometime on the morning of April 18 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Farley says he later saw one of the men, an older man with gray hair and a beard, on television. A photo of the man is shown to the jury, but the man is not identified. Sources say the man is the leader of a Kansas paramilitary group.
BATF Informant Testifies - Carol Howe, a former informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995), then testifies, linking McVeigh to white supremacist Dennis Mahon and a group of Christian Identity supremacists living at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Howe says in the spring of 1994, Mahon took a call from a man he identified as “Tim Tuttle,” a known alias of McVeigh’s (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). Howe says she never told BATF or any other federal agents about the conversation because she did not know “Tuttle” was McVeigh. Howe also says she saw McVeigh at Elohim City in July 1994, in the company of two Elohim City residents, Peter Ward and Andreas Strassmeir. She says at the time she did not know McVeigh. After the bombing, Howe testifies, she told FBI investigators that Ward and his brother might be “John Doe No. 1 and No. 2,” the suspects portrayed in composite sketches circulated in the days after the bombing (see April 20, 1995). She testifies that in the days following the bombing, BATF agents showed her a videotape of McVeigh, and she told the agents she had seen McVeigh at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
White Supremacist Settlement Resident Testifies about Phone Call - Joan Millar, the daughter-in-law of Elohim City religious leader Robert Millar, testifies that on April 5, 1995, she believes she spoke to McVeigh on the telephone. Phone records show that McVeigh called a number in Elohim City on that date (see April 5, 1995). “When I answered the phone, it was a male voice,” she says. “He gave a name, but it wasn’t ‘McVeigh.’ He said that he had—he would be in the area within the next couple weeks and he wanted to know if he could come and visit Elohim City.” She says the caller was reluctant to explain how he knew of the settlement, then says he met some residents at a gun show. A man with “a very broad foreign accent” had given him a card with a telephone number on it, she says he told her. She asked if he had spoken to “Andy,” meaning Strassmeir, and the caller said that may be correct. Millar says the caller told her he would call again for directions, but never called back and never came to the settlement. Millar says that while Elohim City residents were angry and worried about the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), they planned no retaliation. Howe, however, testifies that she heard Strassmeir, Mahon, and Robert Millar advocate some sort of direct action against the federal government. Prosecutors have always maintained that Nichols and McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to avenge the people who died at the Branch Davidian compound.
Testimony of Wife - Marife Nichols testifies that she heard her husband talk about the Davidian tragedy with McVeigh and his brother James Nichols, but says she “did not see Terry being so mad about Waco.” Marife Nichols walks the jury through the events of April 21, when she accompanied her husband to the Herington, Kansas, police station to give voluntary statements about the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). She describes her husband as “pale and scared,” and says, “He told me his name was in the news and James Nichols was in the news, and they’re supposed to be armed and dangerous.” Her husband worried that they were being followed by “a black car” on their way to the police station. When he said that, she testifies, “I asked him right then, ‘Are you involved in this?’ and he said, ‘No.’” She testifies that before he returned from a November 1994 trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) he had told her that he was no longer having dealings with McVeigh (see March 1995). “I didn’t want Tim McVeigh in our life,” she says. [New York Times, 12/11/1997]
Cross-Examination Damaging to Defense Portrayal - Lead defense attorney Michael Tigar asserts that Marife Nichols’s testimony shows that “Terry Nichols was building a life, not a bomb.” However, under cross-examination, prosecutors quickly elicit details about the Nichols’s marriage that shows the two as distant and estranged, casting a new light on Marife Nichols’s attempt to portray their relationship as close and loving. She admits that for much of their seven-year marriage, they lived apart from one another, with her returning frequently to her home in the Philippines. She also admits that Nichols lied to her about breaking off his relationship with McVeigh, and that she suspected her husband was living a “secret life” that included numerous aliases and secret storage lockers, though she says as far as she knows, McVeigh was never in their home. She responds to questions about her husband’s shadowy activities by saying: “I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.” She recalls finding a letter to Nichols from McVeigh the week before the bombing, and though she says she did not understand the letter entirely, she remembers some phrases, including “shake and bake” and “needed an excuse for your second half.” US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan shows her a pink receipt found in the Nichols home for a ton of ammonium nitrate that prosecutors say was used to make the bomb, a receipt made out to “Mike Havens,” an alias used by Nichols to buy the fertilizer (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). The receipt was wrapped around gold coins found at the back of her kitchen drawer; federal analysts found McVeigh’s fingerprints on the receipt. Ryan places two gold coins on the receipt, fitting them precisely into two dark impressions left on the receipt, presumably by the coins. The coins belong to Nichols, and may have come from a robbery Nichols perpetrated to help finance the bombing (see November 17-18, 1997). On April 16, she says, Nichols told her he was going to Omaha, Nebraska, to pick up McVeigh, when in reality he went to Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995). Prosecutors have said that Nichols helped McVeigh stash the getaway car to be used on April 19 after the bomb was detonated (see April 13, 1995). He admitted lying to her about the April 16 trip just seconds before turning himself in on April 21, she says. She admits that Nichols had used a mail-order bride service to find her, and says he once told her, “Young ones were easier to train.” Marife Nichols was 17 when she married Nichols in November 1990; after they married in Cebu City, Philippines, he left her there and returned to the US without her, only bringing her to America months later. She says that she could not remember the exact date of their wedding. She also admits that when she joined Nichols in July 1991, she was pregnant with another man’s child. That child was found in 1993 dead with a plastic bag wrapped around his head; his death was ruled an accident. The two have two more children together. She is unable to offer an alibi for Nichols’s whereabouts on the morning of April 18, when prosecutors say he helped McVeigh construct the bomb. In saying she knew nothing about the storage lockers rented under aliases, she seems to contradict Tigar’s previous assertions that the storage lockers were used for storing innocent items and Nichols chose to use aliases merely to avoid creditors (see November 3, 1997). She also contradicts Nichols’s statements to the FBI that he had not seen McVeigh for months before the bombing.
Defense Rests - After Marife Nichols’s testimony concludes, the defense rests. The Post observes: “The defense’s eight-day case was aimed at generating confusion among jurors by poking holes in the government’s scenario, with the specter of additional accomplices and a second Ryder truck. At times, it seemed like the defense was trying to put the mysterious suspect John Doe No. 2—who was never identified and never found—on trial, instead of Nichols.” Nichols does not testify in his own defense.
Prosecutors Rebut Testimonies - The prosecution offers a brief rebuttal to the testimonies of witnesses who say they saw the Ryder truck at Geary Park earlier than April 17. State park employee Kerry L. Kitchener testifies that in April 1995, he was conducting a fishing survey at the park, and he saw no Ryder truck on April 10, 11, 13, 16, or 17, dates when defense witnesses said they had seen such a truck there. He testifies that he was not at the park on April 18, when prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh built the bomb there in a Ryder truck. [Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Charles Farley, Washington Post, Elohim City, Carole Howe, Andreas Strassmeir, Terry Lynn Nichols, Robert Millar, Timothy James McVeigh, Patrick M. Ryan, Kerry L. Kitchener, Joan Millar, Marife Torres Nichols, Michael E. Tigar, James Nichols, New York Times, Peter Ward
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The prosecution and defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) give their closing statements.
Prosecution: Nichols an Eager Participant - Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson tells the jury that even though Nichols was at home on the day of the bombing, he was an eager participant in the bomb plot, and shares the violent anti-government views of his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Like McVeigh, she says, Nichols wanted to strike back at the federal government for its role in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He intended death, destruction, and chaos in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995,” she says. His favorite quote is from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” However, “Thomas Jefferson never bombed a day care center.” Nichols was involved in the plot from its inception in September 1994, when he left his job on a Kansas ranch “to begin gathering bomb components” (see September 13, 1994 and September 23, 1994), Wilkinson says. Nichols used aliases, such as “Mike Havens,” to purchase several tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a key component in the bomb (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). He took part in the robbery of a quarry to secure explosives and explosive components (see October 3, 1994), and took part in the purchase of three barrels of nitromethane racing fuel from a Texas dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Nichols also robbed an Arkansas gun dealer to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), a fact confirmed by testimony given by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see November 12-13, 1997) and by the FBI finding items taken in that robbery in Nichols’s possession (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols and McVeigh had assembled most of what they needed by November 1994, she says, when Nichols went to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995); after that point, she says, “all they had to do was wait.” When Nichols returned from his trip, they resumed their activities, using sales of guns and ammonium nitrate at gun shows to give themselves alibis. In contrast to a claim made in the opening statement by Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, she says Nichols was not building a life, “he was building a bomb, and he was building an alibi.” Wilkinson says that witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with an unidentified person, and not Nichols, in the days before the bombing (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), were just plain wrong. Referring to the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2,” she says: “As a result of the media frenzy, sightings of John Doe 2 were about as common and credible as sightings of Elvis. No one is telling you Tim McVeigh was never with anyone else. The issue here is, who is on trial? John Doe 2 is not on trial. Tim McVeigh is not on trial. This is the trial of Terry Nichols.” Concluding the prosecution’s close, lead prosecutor Larry Mackey tells the jury, “It’s finally time—it’s time for justice” in what he calls “America’s most horrific crime.”
Defense: Nichols Victimized by Government - Tigar tells the jury that Nichols is the victim of a farrago of errors and circumstance; the evidence against him, Tigar says, is comprised of dishonest witnesses, sloppy investigation, and misleading circumstantial evidence. “It’s kind of like a stick on the ground, as Sherlock Holmes told Watson,” Tigar says. “If you stand here and look, it seems to point there. But if you walk around to the other side, it points in the opposite direction.” A fellow defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, attacks the government’s case, saying, “Anything that differs from the government’s theory, they discount, put aside, ridicule.” The witnesses who saw other men in McVeigh’s company during key moments in the bomb construction timeline were neither wrong nor mistaken, he says. Neither Tigar nor Woods refer at any length to the testimony of Nichols’s wife Marife, which is largely viewed as damaging to their client (see December 10-11, 1997). Tigar continues his previous attack on Fortier, saying: “Michael Fortier is the only witness who says he ever heard anyone say they wanted to bomb the Murrah Building. His testimony was bought and paid for, not with money but with a coin that only the government has the ability to print and hand out, and that is immunity from punishment.” Tigar says that Fortier was far more of a conspirator in the McVeigh plot than Nichols, and accuses the government of turning Fortier from a co-conspirator into a witness. Woods accuses the FBI of manipulating and fabricating witness testimony. Tigar concludes tearfully: “One hundred sixty-eight people died in Oklahoma City. We have never denied the reality of that.” But this is a nation that promises equal justice under law, he says, “rich or poor, neighbor or stranger, tax protester or not, someone who’s different from us, or not.… Members of the jury, I don’t envy you the job that you have,” he says, placing his hand on Nichols’s shoulders. “But I tell you, this is my brother. He’s in your hands.” [New York Times, 12/16/1997; New York Times, 12/17/1997]
After the closing arguments (see December 15-16, 1997) in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), Judge Richard P. Matsch sends the jury to begin its deliberations. Jurors will not be sequestered and are free to go home at the end of the day. Matsch reminds the jury that “individuals, including Mr. Nichols, have the right under the First Amendment to assemble and discuss even the most unpopular ideas, including unlawful acts, and such a discussion does not constitute an unlawful agreement.” He also tells the jurors to weigh the case solely on the evidence. [New York Times, 12/17/1997] Matsch gives the Nichols jury more leeway than he gave the jury that convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Though Nichols faces the same charges that McVeigh faced, Matsch tells the jurors that they can consider charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or involuntary manslaughter for Nichols in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement agents in the bombing. (Because McVeigh and Nichols were tried in federal courts, they could only face charges of murdering federal agents. Both men await state charges of murdering the other 160 victims.) If convicted, Nichols could escape with as little as six years in prison without parole for his role in the deaths of the agents, or he could be sentenced to death. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones (see August 14-27, 1997) says: “I suspect the judge’s thinking went something like this: There was no evidence Nichols was in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and that he himself set off the bomb, so the jury might infer that while he wanted to blow up the building, he didn’t specifically want to kill these people.” To find Nichols guilty of first-degree murder, the jurors must conclude that he is guilty of premeditated murder; if they do not agree on premeditation, then their next choice is second-degree murder, or failing that, involuntary manslaughter, “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” This would be a “lawful act, done without due caution, which might produce death,” he says. Jones is critical of Matsch’s guidelines, saying: “I can’t imagine how the judge persuaded himself to give an instruction on manslaughter. I don’t see how you get involuntary manslaughter out of building a bomb. It’s like a virgin prostitute.” [New York Times, 12/19/1997; New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) sends a letter to the Dallas Morning News that says he expects the appeals of his conviction to fail. “Because of the intense public pressure and demand for my blood, I do not see an appeals court ruling in my favor,” he writes, echoing a statement made to a Buffalo News reporter (see August 17, 1997). McVeigh writes: “I have no fear of execution. If anything, death by execution is much more predictable than normal life or combat—because I at least know when and how I’m checking out.” [New York Times, 12/20/1997; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
A jury of nine women and three men is seated in the trial of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996). [Washington Post, 1998] The next day, the Associated Press prints brief profiles of the 12 jurors and six alternates chosen to hear the trial, though it does not name them. All are white. The jury is divided on its feelings about the death penalty, with many making similar statements to that given by Juror #2 during voir dire: “It’s not comfortable enough for me, but I could” vote for it. [Associated Press, 12/23/1997]
Accused Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 15-16, 1997) is convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. He is found not guilty of use of a weapon of mass destruction (see April 16-17, 1995), and of using an explosive, as well as the more serious charges of first-degree and second-degree murder. The jury took 41 hours over six days to decide Nichols’s fate (see December 16-18, 1997). By rejecting the murder charges in the deaths of eight federal law-enforcement officials, the jury concludes that Nichols did not provably intend to kill the people inside the Murrah building. Observers and researchers such as law professor Douglas O. Linder will later conclude that the jury believed the defense’s contention that Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing plot (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), and was probably swayed by Nichols’s decision to stay home on the day of the bombing instead of joining convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City (see June 2, 1997) at the bomb site. The jury may also have been moved by Nichols’s show of emotion during the trial; unlike the stoic McVeigh, Nichols broke down and wept during several moments in the proceedings. Legal analysts say the split verdict is in part because of a much more effective defense (see December 2, 1997) than that presented by Nichols’s co-conspirator, McVeigh (see August 14-27, 1997), who was sentenced to death for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997). Kentucky defense lawyer Kevin McNally says of the verdicts: “[They mean] he had a much less culpable state of mind regarding the homicides. To the jury, he engaged in certain actions that were reckless, but it wasn’t a premeditated killing.” Former federal prosecutor Marvin L. Rudnick says the jury “probably compromised” on the involuntary manslaughter verdicts. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey says: “The jury has spoken. We accept their verdict in its entirety. We are prepared to go forward now with the penalty phase.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, immediately files an appeal and says he will challenge any attempt by the jury to sentence Nichols to death. However, analysts feel that Nichols will escape execution. Denver attorney Andrew Cohen says: “I would be very surprised if the jury sentenced Nichols to death. They distinguished in their own minds what both men did.” Both McVeigh and Nichols face 160 counts of murder in an Oklahoma state court. [New York Times, 12/23/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; New York Times, 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Under federal law, a conviction of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction can lead to the death penalty. The law is only three years old and has never been used. This death penalty provision was passed by Congress in 1994 after the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York (see February 26, 1993). [New York Times, 12/25/1997]
Mixed Reactions - Predictably, reactions regarding the verdict are mixed. Claudia Denny, whose two children were seriously injured in the blast, says, “We’re all disappointed, but we can live with it.” She says she would have preferred murder convictions, but “one more terrorist is off the street.… The important thing to us now is our children. This doesn’t change that. It doesn’t matter.” Bud Welch, who lost his daughter in the bombing, says that the involuntary manslaughter convictions were inappropriate because that charge is what people get “for running a stoplight” and killing someone with a car. Diane Leonard, whose husband was one of the eight law enforcement agents killed, calls the verdict “a slap in the face.” Marsha Knight, whose daughter was one of the 160 civilians killed in the blast, says: “He conspired to build the bomb. What the hell did they think he was going to do with it?” [New York Times, 12/24/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997] President Clinton says the convictions of McVeigh and Nichols “should offer a measure of comfort” to the relatives of the victims. But, he adds, “I know that no verdict in a court of law can ease the loss of a loved one.” [New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Judge Offers Leniency, Nichols Turns Down Offer - Judge Richard Matsch later tells Nichols he will consider some leniency in sentencing him to prison if he cooperates in helping the government learn more about the bombing conspiracy. Nichols rejects the offer. [Indianapolis Star, 2003]
Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Kevin McNally, Bud Welch, Douglas O. Linder, Claudia Denny, Diane Leonard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Marvin L. Rudnick, Timothy James McVeigh, Marsha Knight, Michael E. Tigar, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Larry A. Mackey
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The media reports that federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials have rejected an offer by Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), to plead guilty in his murder case to avoid the death penalty. [Washington Post, 1998]
John Ehrlichman. [Source: PBS]After years of protracted legal wrangling, selected portions of former President Richard Nixon’s secret White House recordings (see July 13-16, 1973) are made public. In a January 2, 1997 panel discussion on PBS, two former Nixon aides, John Ehrlichman and Monica Crowley, and former New York Times reporter Tom Wicker, discuss the content and dissemination of the tapes. All three have listened to the released portions of the tapes, currently housed at the National Archives.
Context - Ehrlichman complains that the selections lack context: “The archivist has snipped little tiny segments, in some cases six or eight seconds, and you don’t know what was said before or after. And it’s tough on a listener.… I think there could be a lot more context given. What they’ve done is try and select out the things that embodied abuses of government power under their regulations, and that’s what they’re giving you.” Wicker says it is hard to know when Nixon’s “popping off” about this or that supposed enemy was ever acted upon and when his instructions to “get” a particular person were ignored. Crowley says: “I think all presidents say things in the heat of disappointment, frustration, anger, even fatigue, that they never intend to have acted upon. And Nixon’s rantings have become a lightning rod for criticism because we can hear his but we can’t hear those of other presidents.”
Brookings Institution Burglary Halted - Ehrlichman explains why Nixon’s 1972 order to burglarize the Brookings Institution (see June 30-July 1, 1971) was never carried out: “because I shot it down.… I tracked down who had followed up—who was proposing to do this thing and I told ‘em to stop. It sounded ridiculous to me. So that was the end of it.”
Comparison of Ellsberg and Hiss - Ehrlichman says that, listening to the tapes, it seems as if Nixon was comparing Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the notorious “Pentagon Papers” (see June 13, 1971), to his “Communist” nemesis of the 1950s, Alger Hiss. Hiss, prosecuted by Nixon for allegedly selling US intelligence to the Soviet Union, helped Nixon vault to national prominence. Ehrlichman now says Nixon seemed to hope that Ellsberg could provide him with another, similar boost to his political stature before the 1972 presidential elections. In general, Ehrlichman says, Nixon was “very sensitive” to press leaks, especially those that he considered a threat to national security, and “his reaction in some cases was pretty extreme.”
Mentions of Jews - Ehrlichman goes on to address Nixon’s well-documented diatribes against Jews (see September 1971), and says that such outbursts were not confined to Jews: another day “it was major Italian donors to the Democrats, and [the next] it would be black contributors.… He broke it down along ethnic lines. He broke it down along socioeconomic lines. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the fact that he was talking about Jewish people in this particular segment.” Wicker says the tapes largely confirm the public impression of Nixon as a “dark… evil man” because of his blatant orders of criminal behavior and his rampant ethnic slurs. [PBS, 1/2/1997]
One of several unofficial logos of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty organization. [Source: Kitty Liberation Front (.com)]The BBC broadcasts a graphic documentary detailing the mistreatment and abuse of animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a British research firm. Angered animal rights activists in Britain begin to pressure financial institutions associated with HLS to drop their support of the company as a means to force it to stop performing animal testing. The campaign grows into the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) organization, which models itself on the tactics and ideologies espoused by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), among others. SHAC quickly migrates across the Atlantic to the US and into Europe; its activists will claim responsibility for a number of bombings and acts of vandalism and harassment. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
David Barbarash, an animal rights activist (see 1992) with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976 and 1979-1993), and his fellow activist Darren Thurston are charged in Vancouver with sending letters filled with razor blades to 22 hunting trip guides. Charges against Barbarash and Thurston are dropped because the prosecution does not want to jeopardize other investigations. Barbarash will soon become what he calls an “above ground” spokesman and publicist for the ALF. He will resign in 2002 after Canadian police seize videotapes and computer files from his home as part of their investigation into the organization. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The British “Animal Rights Militia,” an offshoot of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976), threatens to kill 10 scientists if ALF member Barry Horne, serving 18 years in prison for waging a 1994 firebombing campaign that caused extensive damage to stores in England, dies while on a hunger strike. Horne discontinues the strike after 68 days. Horne had previously vowed to die, telling a reporter: “This is the end. In death you win. Words are cheap. Only actions really count. This is not for me, it is for every animal in every torture lab. We are creating a turning point—a moment in history that will be remembered. Never doubt this. We will see an end to this evil.” After he ceases his hunger strike, an obscure animal rights group called “Animals Betrayed Coalition” (ABC) announces: “Barry’s hunger strike has achieved more than we could ever have imagined. [The strike] has caused people in and out of the [animal rights] movement to reassess the priorities in their lives and do that bit more for the animals. People have asked, ‘What can be happening to animals in laboratories that is so bad that someone is prepared to die for it?’” Apparently, Horne ends his hunger strike after receiving a promise that the British government will review its policies towards animal experiments. Of ARM’s promise to kill scientists if he dies, Horne says: “People must do what they feel is right in response to my death.… Look at the evil of Nazis and the level of violence needed, quite rightly, to stop them.” [Fur Commission, 12/15/1998; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Harold Ray Redfeairn, a member of the white supremacist organization Aryan Nations and a self-styled “Christian Identity” “pastor” (see 1960s and After), tells churchgoers in a sermon: “We are dangerous. Dangerous to the Jews, n_ggers, and anyone else who poses a threat to the white race. What I find especially disturbing is the n_ggers.” This information comes from FBI informant Dave Hall. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), interrupts the first day of his murder trial by asking to meet privately with the judge to demand replacements for his defense lawyers—and perhaps to defend himself—and to protest his brother David Kaczynski’s presence in the courtroom. [Washington Post, 1998] Kaczynski halts the proceedings before the jury enters the courtroom by telling Judge Garland Burrell Jr. that he has a “very important” statement to make about his relationship with his attorneys. “Your honor, before these proceedings begin, I would like to revisit the issue of my relationship with my attorneys,” Kaczynski says. “It’s very important. I haven’t stood because I’m under orders from the marshals not to stand up.” Kacynzski spends four hours in chamber with Burrell and his lawyers. It is believed that Kaczynski is fighting against his lawyers’ attempt to portray him as mentally ill (see November 9, 1997)—a “sickie,” as he has termed it in his journals. At least two mental health experts hired by the defense have found that Kaczynski suffers from the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic. Kaczynski has refused to be examined by government psychiatrists, and has cut off interviews with his own doctors when they broached the subject of his possible mental illness. As a result, defense attempts to present evidence that Kaczynski is mentally ill have been hampered, and prosecutors have refused to countenance any attempts at a plea bargain that would spare Kaczynski the death penalty (see December 30, 1997). Kaczynski’s brother has been one of the strongest and most impassioned advocates for Kaczynski’s classification as mentally ill, which would spare Kaczynski from execution. Two victims of Kaczynski’s bombs, Charles Epstein (see June 22, 1993) and David Gelernter (see June 24, 1993), disagree; both say that Kaczynski should die for his crimes. Lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary (see April 11, 1996) demands in court that Burrell “firmly and finally” resolve the disagreements between Kaczynski and his lawyers. Burrell says he is trying, but notes that difficulties prevent him from quickly resolving the dispute: “A criminal proceeding sometimes involves dynamics that a judge has to react to,” he says. [Washington Post, 1/5/1998] Defense counsel Judy Clarke says Kaczynski “simply cannot endure” being portrayed as mentally ill, and notes that he has harbored an abiding fear throughout his life that people will consider him insane. Such resistance to being considered mentally ill is symptomatic of his paranoid schizophrenia, Clarke says. Outside the courthouse, Clarke says that Kaczynski’s request to represent himself “is a tragedy at its worst,” and denies that Kaczynski is attempting to stall the trial. “This is not manipulation. This is not cunning,” she says. “This is not someone trying to avoid legal responsibility.” Anthony Bisceglie, the lawyer for David Kaczynski, says the Kaczynski family believes that allowing him to act as his own attorney would be “to allow him to participate in a federally assisted suicide.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1998] The judge will reject Kaczynski’s demands (see January 7, 1998).
After two days of deliberations and testimony, the jury in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997) deadlocks on whether Nichols should be sentenced to death (see October 20, 1995). The task of sentencing Nichols now falls to US District Judge Richard Matsch, who excuses the jury and begins considering the sentencing himself. Matsch has the option of sentencing Nichols to life in prison, or to a lesser term. Both Nichols and his partner, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), face murder charges in the state of Oklahoma. The prosecution put on witnesses who provided graphic, emotional testimony about the carnage and personal losses caused by the blast, while the defense painted Nichols as a loving family man who became caught up in a conspiracy he could not control. Prosecutors, already displeased by the jury’s failure to find Nichols guilty of first-degree murder, are further dismayed by the jury’s actions. Some relatives of the bombing victims, many of whom have attended every day of the trial, leave the courtroom in tears. Jury forewoman Niki Deutchman says: “I think he was building a life; he may also have been building a bomb. I don’t know.… The government wasn’t able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a whole lot of the evidence. The government didn’t do a good job of proving Terry Nichols was greatly involved in this.” She says some jurors did not believe that Nichols was an equal partner in the bombing with McVeigh, and some believe his role to be peripheral at best. The prosecution’s case, Deutchman says, had large holes which some jurors believe preclude a death sentence. “There were a lot of specific acts [alleged by the government] that I had doubts about,” she says. The FBI came across as “arrogant” and “sloppy” in its investigation, Deutchman says, and notes: “I think the government’s attitude… is part of where all this comes from in the first place. I think maybe it’s time the government be more respectful… and not with the attitude that we know and you don’t, we have the power and you don’t.” Other jurors cite the failure of FBI agents to tape-record their initial interrogation of Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) as one of many troublesome acts carried out by law enforcement officials. Diane Leonard, who lost her husband in the bombing, expresses her horror at the failure to impose the death sentence, saying: “At the verdict, I felt like a knife was piercing my chest. In any civilized society, death is the only appropriate punishment for such an horrendous act.” Other relatives of the victims call the jury inept and unfair. Matsch praises the jury, saying: “You worked at it; there’s no question about it. The result here will be subject to comment by many. There will be some who will criticize it. There will be some who praise it. You know that you are answerable to no one for your decisions.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, says, “The jury has spoken, and the judge in summarizing this proceeding has given everybody an invaluable object lesson on how the American justice system works.” Denver lawyer Scott Robinson, who has attended the trial as a media commentator, reminds onlookers: “You can make any calculation you want; Terry Nichols is not going home any time soon or ever. I call it a Methuselah sentence. Only Methuselah would live to see the light of day.… It’s not a crushing defeat for the prosecution. If people view it as that, shame on them.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1997; New York Times, 12/30/1997; New York Times, 1/2/1998; Boston Globe, 1/8/1998; New York Times, 1/8/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Analysts, Oklahoma Governor Weigh In - Denver attorney Andrew Cohen, like Robinson and other legal analysts, says the outcome is understandable. “You had far less evidence against Nichols than you had against McVeigh and I think that’s the ultimate truth about this Nichols trial,” he says. “I think that justice was served in the first trial and, I think, that the result of this Nichols trial, when the judge sentences Nichols, will be about as close to justice as I can imagine.” Law professor Christopher Mueller notes that Nichols wasn’t in Oklahoma City when the bomb was detonated (see March 1995 and April 16-17, 1995), and defense lawyers were skillful in casting doubt on whether Nichols actually helped McVeigh assemble the bomb (see April 15-16, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995)). “A verdict of death for Timothy McVeigh and a verdict of a long prison term for Terry Nichols is a just outcome,” he says. Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating is sharply critical of the failure to sentence Nichols to death. “This was the most monstrous act of terrorism ever in the history of the United States,” he says. “The people who did this deserve the death sentence and certainly life in prison—and that hasn’t happened here yet.” Vera Chubb, who served on McVeigh’s jury, is dismayed by the outcome. “They [McVeigh and Nichols] had two years to plan this. If I knew of a friend or anyone that I thought was going to do this horrendous crime, I would have said something,” she says. “I was completely dismayed by this jury.” [Associated Press, 1/11/1998] Keating adds that he is “disappointed with the jury. They were expected to make this decision. This is what juries are supposed to do, and they walked away from it. I’m cautiously optimistic that Judge Matsch, who is a tough, no-nonsense, fact-filled, moral judge will make a decision to impose a life sentence on Nichols. We do have a backup prosecution in Oklahoma which, of course, I support, and we’ll wait and watch and see what happens.” [New York Times, 1/8/1998]
Entity Tags: Frank Keating, Christopher Mueller, Andrew Cohen, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Diane Leonard, Vera Chubb, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard P. Matsch, Scott Robinson, Michael E. Tigar, Niki Deutchman
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
After authorities determine that Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), may have attempted to commit suicide in his jail cell, they agree to a psychiatric evaluation of his competence to stand trial and to allow him to seek to conduct his own defense. Kaczynski also agrees to the evaluation. [Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 1/8/1998] Until now, he has forcefully resisted attempts by his lawyers to present him as mentally ill (see January 5, 1998). It is believed that Kaczynski tried to hang himself in his cell with his underwear. Kaczynski told jailers that he had “lost” his underwear while in the prison shower; a search of his cell found the underwear stuffed inside a small plastic bag inside his trash can. According to Sacramento County Undersheriff Lou Blanas, the underwear was stretched out of shape consistent with being “used in the type of way we thought he did: putting it around his neck and trying to hang himself.” US Marshals have reported seeing a red rash on the right side of Kaczynski’s throat while he dressed for court, leading them to conclude he had tried to hang himself with the missing underwear sometime before leaving his cell. Kaczynski is now under 24-hour suicide watch. The judge presiding over Kaczynski’s trial, Garland Burrell Jr., is caught between trying to defend Kaczynski’s constitutional rights to participate in his own defense, and protecting Kaczynski from himself and his mental illness. The legal standard for “competency” is quite low: someone diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia, as Kaczynski has been, can still be ruled competent to stand trial. Ronald Kuby, who has stood as defense counsel in high-profile death penalty cases, says: “It is a firm principle of constitutional law… if you’re competent to stand trial you are competent to represent yourself. That’s not competence in the legally talented sense.… [I]t violates 200 years of jurisprudence and basic notions, such as the presumption of innocence, to force an insanity defense on an unwilling defendant.” Psychiatrist Robert T.M. Phillips says: “Insanity is a legal term, not a clinical term. The law defines what the components of insanity are.… Depending on the jurisdiction that you’re in, you could be a flagrant psychotic, quite schizophrenic, and still found legally sane. To the lay person it may not make sense—to some of us in the system it may not make sense. But these are rules of law, not of medicine or science.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1998; Washington Post, 1/9/1998]
Prosecutors in Oklahoma City say they want a joint trial for convicted Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) on 160 charges of first-degree murder. Oklahoma County District Attorney Robert Macy says he intends to bypass the customary grand jury and file charges against the two on his own for the 160 civilians who died in the blast (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). According to Assistant District Attorney Richard Wintory, Macy wants a joint trial with two separate juries. Trying the two again is not a violation of the constitutional ban on double jeopardy, because they were convicted on federal charges that involved the deaths of eight federal agents (see August 10, 1995). They have not been tried for the deaths of the 160 civilians. Wintory says the use of a double jury would save a great deal of time because “there is such a large overlap of the evidence” against both men. When evidence that has been ruled inadmissible against one defendant is to be introduced against the other, Wintory says, the jury that may not hear that evidence will be asked to leave the room. Double juries have been used successfully in other trials, and would spare the survivors and victims’ families of the bombing the stress and trauma of two more trials, a point agreed to by Jeffrey Abramson, a professor of government at Harvard. He says “the idea of two consecutive trials on top of two consecutive trials is too much for the public, the defendants, and the families to bear.” The use of two juries is “a way of balancing defendants’ rights and victims’ rights in a speedy trial.” However, “[i]t changes the psychodynamics of what it means to be on a jury. Two juries sitting in the same room will eyeball the defendant they’re not being asked to try. Certainly, this is not in Terry Nichols’s best interest. If I were his defense lawyer, I would resist.” Having McVeigh and Nichols in the same courtroom “carries a certain suggestion they were in cahoots.” [New York Times, 1/9/1998]
Lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) ask the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver, for a new trial for their client. They argue that McVeigh did not receive a fair trial. In a 225-page brief, McVeigh’s lawyers say that Judge Richard P. Matsch, the federal district judge who presided over McVeigh’s trial and sentencing, made a number of errors in his rulings, jurors had been exposed to prejudicial information in news reports that McVeigh had confessed to his defense team (see February 28 - March 4, 1997), Matsch ignored juror misconduct, and Matsch allowed “unfairly prejudicial, inflammatory” testimony from bombing survivors. [New York Times, 1/17/1998]
Prosecution and defense attorneys agree with a government psychiatrist that Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), is competent to stand trial and assist with his own defense (see January 8, 1998). [Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 1/20/1998] The lawyers stipulate that Kaczynski is competent even after his being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and being suspected of attempting suicide (see November 9, 1997 and January 8, 1998). Kaczynski is still wrangling with Judge Garland Burrell Jr. and with his own lawyers, continuing to insist that his lawyers be dismissed and he be allowed to represent himself even after Burrell has rejected such demands (see January 7, 1998). “I’m tentatively not inclined to bring in new lawyers,” Burrell says. “The difficulty Mr. Kaczynski has experienced with these lawyers will resurface with new lawyers.” The question centers on whether Kaczynski has the right to prevent his defense lawyers from portraying him as mentally ill, a centerpiece of the defense strategy that Kaczynski opposes. [Washington Post, 1/20/1998]
After a federal judge rejects a request by Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), to represent himself in court (see January 21, 1998), Kaczynski pleads guilty to being the Unabomber and to committing two murders. [Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 1/23/1998] “Do you understand you will spend the rest of your life in prison?” Judge Garland Burrell Jr. asks Kaczynski. “Yes, your honor,” Kaczynski replies. The guilty plea is part of a deal that will spare Kaczynski the death penalty (see January 12, 1998). The last-minute deal features Kaczynski pleading guilty to 13 counts of transporting explosive devices with the intent to kill or maim. Kaczynski also pleads guilty to all federal charges against him, including a case not yet presented in New Jersey, comprising five other bombings. He also admits to planting or mailing 13 other bombs for which he has not been charged. After the guilty verdict is handed down, lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary says, “The Unabomber’s career is over.” Cleary says the government accepted the plea because the only stipulation is that Kaczynski not be executed for his crimes. As part of the plea deal, Kaczynski waives his right to appeal his convictions. [Washington Post, 1/23/1998; Washington Post, 8/21/1998] Kaczynski’s brother David, who informed FBI agents that he thought his brother might be the Unabomber (see January-March 1996 and After), says he is relieved that the ordeal of the trial is over and pleased that his brother avoided the death penalty. David pushed hard for the government to take the death penalty off the table, insisting that his brother suffers from serious mental illness and should not be executed. “Though he has done evil things,” David Kaczynski says after the verdict is handed down, “he is not an evil person.” At least one of the victims, Yale scientist David Gelernter (see June 24, 1993), argued strongly for a death sentence. Theodore Kaczynski is believed to suffer from acute paranoid schizophrenia, and government psychiatrist Sally Johnson testified to that effect in court. “A mentally ill person is not going to be cured, to become sane, when he’s caught,” David Kaczynski says. “It will take time, if it ever occurs.… But I would hope someday he could see the enormity of what he’s done.” David Kaczynski says while many believe his brother is driven by some sort of political or social ideology (see September 19, 1995), he feels in reality his brother is driven by delusions. He says his family suspected for years that Theodore was mentally unstable: “I think there’s no question we repressed our own feelings about the severity of his illness .… There is a tendency to be in some form of denial.” [Washington Post, 1/24/1998]
White supremacist Cheyne Kehoe, serving a lengthy sentence for engaging in a shootout with Ohio police (see June 1997), says he believes his brother, fellow white supremacist Chevie Kehoe, was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Both brothers are fervent anti-government activists who are members of regional militias. Cheyne Kehoe refuses to give further details, saying he does not want to influence his brother’s upcoming trial for his involvement in the same shootout, as well as charges of attempting to overthrow the government. FBI spokesman Ray Lauer says the bureau is investigating claims by a Spokane, Washington, motel manager who says Chevie Kehoe may have had advance knowledge of the bombing. [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
The US enacts a law banning torture or abuse by any government official or employee. Title 18 of the US Code, Chapter 113C, Section 2340 bans US officials anywhere in the world from intentionally inflicting “severe physical or mental pain or suffering” upon another person in their control. Violation of this statute would earn the convicted official up to 20 years in prison; if a detainee dies as a result of the abuse, the convicted official can be sentenced to death. Any American official who conspires to have a prisoner abused is subject to the same penalties. [Legal Information Institute, 1/26/1998; Savage, 2007, pp. 155]
The New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, is bombed by anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph. The bomb, hidden in a flowerpot, kills police officer Robert Sanderson and critically injures nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph, who flees the scene and hides successfully for years in the wilds of western North Carolina, is also responsible for the fatal 1996 bombing during the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia (see July 27, 1996 and After), and several other bombings, including other Atlanta abortion clinics (see January 16, 1997 and October 14, 1998) and an Atlanta lesbian bar (see February 21, 1997). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/1998; Kushner, 2003, pp. 40; CNN, 5/31/2003; CNN, 12/11/2003] Rudolph lives in Murphy, North Carolina, a small town in the mountainous western part of the state. Over Christmas, he purchased materials from the local Wal-Mart to assist in his fashioning of the bomb. Rudolph was dissatisfied with the results of his earlier bombings, and instead of relying on an alarm clock to act as a timer as he did with his previous bombs, modifies a model airplane remote control to use as a detonator. Before dawn, he places the bomb inside a pot beside the front door of the clinic and places plastic flowers on top of it. He watches from a hill about a block away; when he sees Sanderson bend down to examine the flowerpot, he detonates the bomb. A witness sees Rudolph walking away from the explosion, and, later explaining that he found it suspicious when everyone else was running towards it, watches as Rudolph gets into his pickup truck and drives away. The witness writes down Rudolph’s license plate number—KND 1117—and alerts police. The FBI will soon identify Rudolph with the bombing, and will quickly tie him to his other three attacks. [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Opposed to Abortion, Government - Family members will later say that Rudolph is not only opposed to abortion, but to all forms of government in general; his sister-in-law will tell CNN that Rudolph’s immediate family is “against… any form of government or the form of government that we have in our country today.” Evidence shows Rudolph is an active member of the extremist anti-abortion group Army of God (see 1982 and Early 1980s) and the Christian Identity movement (see 1960s and After), a militant, racist and anti-Semitic organization that believes whites are God’s chosen people. He will be described by future Attorney General John Ashcroft as “the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.” [CNN, 12/11/2003]
Will Plead Guilty - Rudolph will later plead guilty to the bombing, and other crimes, in lieu of being sentenced to death (see April 14, 2005). He will justify the bombing in an essay from prison, writing that Jesus would condone “militant action in defense of the innocent.” He will also reveal the location of a large cache of explosives, apparently gathered for future bombing attacks. [Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006; Associated Press, 5/31/2009]
No Remorse for Sanderson's Death - Of Sanderson’s death, he will write: “Despite the fact that he may have been a good guy, he volunteered to work at a place that murders 50 people a week. He chose to wield a weapon in defense of these murderers… and that makes him just as culpable.… I have no regrets or remorse for my actions that day in January, and consider what happened morally justified.” [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Three men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan are arrested in Illinois on weapons charges. The three, along with three others arrested later, are accused of plotting to murder a federal judge and civil rights lawyer Morris Dees; blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center, which Dees co-founded, and other buildings; poison water supplies; and rob banks. The six will receive terms of up to seven years in prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Four armed Florida members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), all under 25, rob a Broward County, Florida, video store, planning to use the proceeds for the group. Three of them will later plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges related to the robbery. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999] According to the indictment, the four chose the target “because the defendants… believed that media outlets were controlled by ‘Jews,’ and that it was permissible to steal from the ‘Jews.’” The WCOTC members reportedly pattern the robbery after a similar incident in William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries (see 1978). They discussed sending the proceeds from the robbery to WCOTC’s Illinois headquarters. Two of the criminals, Donald Hansard and Raymond Leone, have already been convicted of charges stemming from the beating of a black man and his son (see August 1997). All four defendants will plead guilty. Dawn Witherspoon receives 13 months in prison; Angela King receives six years in prison; Hansard receives four and one-half years; and Leone receives over eight years in prison. [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999]
Daniel Rudolph, the brother of accused abortion clinic and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph (see January 29, 1998 and October 14, 1998), charges the FBI and the national media with persecuting his brother. In protest at what he calls the unfair treatment of his brother, Daniel Rudolph sets up a camera in his Summerville, South Carolina, garage. He then turns on a circular saw and thrusts his left arm into it, cutting off the hand. It will later be surgically reattached. [CNN, 5/31/2003]
White separatist Jason Leigh attempts to take over a Veterans Affairs (VA) office in Waco, Texas. Leigh, who crashes his vehicle into the office, is reported to have separatist views similar to the secessionist Republic of Texas; he is also obsessed with UFO conspiracy theories. He tells police that he is armed and carrying explosives. During the standoff, Leigh demands $1 million for an organization called “Save our Soldiers,” which apparently only consists of himself. Leigh eventually surrenders to police. [Anti-Defamation League, 4/24/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Six Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, and June 13, 1996) are tried in a district court in Billings, Montana, accused of being accessories to helping fugitives avoid arrest during the FBI siege of the Freemen compound. Four Freemen will be ejected from the courtroom for being disruptive during the trial; the four attempt to derail the proceedings by cursing and screaming. All six Freemen have refused to participate in their defense, rejected their court-appointed counsels, and refused to dress themselves for the trial. “It’s a difficult trial to get prepared for,” says Lisa Swanson, who represents defendant James Hance. “He won’t talk to me. The only way he would talk with me is if I would denounce my membership in the American Bar Association.” Three are dragged in and out of the courtroom after refusing to walk, and one is transported in a wheelchair. As they are taken into the courtroom, they yell “non-assumptus,” their term for their claim that the judge has no authority over them. Another defendant, Steven Hance, yells at the presiding judge, “Let the record show I’m placing you under arrest,” and curses him. Hance then knocks over a chair and tries to knock over a computer monitor. A third defendant, James Hance, curses the US Attorney prosecuting the case, Sherry Matteucci. [New York Times, 3/16/1998; Los Angeles Times, 4/1/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Five of the defendants will be convicted (see March 31, 1998).
Two former New York City police officers are convicted of selling illegal “Patriot” “untaxing kits” to fellow officers for up to $2,000 each (see December 1997). The kits purport to tell citizens how they can “legally” avoid paying taxes. The two officers are the last of 14 officers to be convicted for tax evasion. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Five Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, and June 13, 1996) are convicted of serving as accessories to helping other Freemen escape arrest during the 81-day standoff (see March 16, 1998 and After). Steven Hance and his two sons, James and John Hance, are convicted of being accessories and for being fugitives in possession of firearms. Barry Nelson, who joined the Freemen during the standoff (see March 25 - April 1, 1996), is convicted of being an accessory. Elwin Ward is acquitted of accessory charges, but found guilty of submitting a false claim to the Internal Revenue Service. Edwin Clark is acquitted of all charges. [New York Times, 4/1/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] The Hances and Nelson will receive lengthy jail sentences (see June 6, 1998).
Three members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan are arrested on firearms and other charges. The men conspired to bomb federal buildings, a Kalamazoo television station, and an interstate highway interchange; to kill federal agents and a black radio talk show host; and to attack aircraft at a National Guard base. Group leader Ken Carter, a self-described member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, will later plead guilty, cooperate with the government, and receive five years in prison. The others will be convicted and receive much longer prison terms. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
After 12 years of litigation, the National Organization for Women (NOW) wins its lawsuit against the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN, also known as the Pro-Life Action League, or PLAL—see 1980 and 1986) and other anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997). The jury hearing the case unanimously agrees that the defendants engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to deny women access to medical facilities. The jury determines that Operation Rescue (see 1986), PLAN, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler, and their co-defendants are racketeers under the RICO Act and should be held liable for triple damages for the harm their violent acts caused to women’s health clinics. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]
Terry Nichols, the white separatist convicted of participating in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 23, 1997), refuses an offer of leniency in his upcoming sentencing, an offer contingent on his cooperation in the FBI’s continuing investigation of the bomb plot. In a brief filed by his lawyers, Nichols says any such cooperation would help the state of Oklahoma convict him on 160 counts of murder relating to the bombing. He does offer to look over the thousands of pages of government evidence in an attempt to help the government pinpoint any other suspected participants. Judge Richard Matsch has said he would sentence Nichols to life in prison unless Nichols cooperates with the FBI. Nichols’s lawyer Michael E. Tigar has said that Nichols still faces a state murder investigation in Oklahoma, and “whatever he says falls into hands that do not have his best interests at heart.” [New York Times, 3/26/1998; Washington Post, 4/21/1998]
Stephen Jones, the former lawyer for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997, June 11-13, 1997, and August 14-27, 1997), says he will fight a subpoena from a grand jury investigating the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Documents unsealed today show that the grand jury asked the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office in February to subpoena Jones. “I will not testify,” Jones says, citing both his attorney-client privilege and the Oklahoma shield law protecting journalists from testifying before grand juries. Jones says the shield law applies to him because he is writing a book and three law review articles about issues arising from the case that do not involve privileged information, as well as his appearances as a television commentator. The grand jury was convened after a campaign by Oklahoma State Representative Charles Key (R-Oklahoma City) and accountant Glenn Wilburn (see June 30, 1997). The grand jury does not have any connection with the District Attorney’s upcoming charges against both McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). McVeigh’s current lawyer, Robert Nigh Jr., says the subpoena is a surprise to him. McVeigh has not waived his attorney-client privilege as it pertains to Jones, and any testimony by Jones could jeopardize McVeigh’s appeals. “He’s asked the 10th Circuit to grant a new trial,” Nigh says. “Anything revealed to the grand jury in the nature of defense work product could defeat our defense at a new trial and reveal our strategy.” Law professor Samuel Issacharoff has mixed feelings about the subpoena: “It should be unusual, exceptional and discouraged to try to turn lawyers into witnesses,” he says. “On the other hand, there is a distressing practice of lawyers holding press conferences and holding themselves out as commentators on the events of the day, including their perception of the client. The result is, they seem to invite this. It is a very unfortunate development because it places the lawyer’s interests starkly against those of the client.” [New York Times, 4/25/1998]
Eric Harris. [Source: CNN]Eric Harris, one of the teenage gunmen who will be involved in the Columbine High School massacre, writes in his diary about a plot to hijack a plane and crash it into New York City. Harris and Dylan Klebold are two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, who on April 20, 1999, will kill 12 of their peers and then themselves in the school’s library. After the shooting, investigators will discover Harris’s journals. An entry written about a year before the massacre reads in part: “If by some wierd as s—t luck my and V survive and escape we will move to some island somewhere or maybe mexico, new zelend or some exotic place where americans cant get us. if there isnt such a place, then we will hijack a hell of a lot of bombs and crash a plane into NYC with us inside iring away as we go down.” [CNN, 12/6/2001] CNN will first report on the diary entry April 26, 1999, a week after the shootings, but will not quote from it until the December 6, 2001 report. [CNN, 4/26/1998]
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