by Bill Johnson
American Reporter Correspondent
Oklahoma City, Okla.
June 7, 2001
OKLAHOMA CITY, June 6, 2001 -- The judge who heard Timothy McVeigh's bombing case said Wednesday it was "shocking" that the FBI had failed to turn over all evidence to the defendant, but he said there was nothing in thousands of additional pages that were withheld that would keep McVeigh from dying as scheduled next Monday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch surprised almost everyone with his quick ruling after a hearing that lasted little more than an hour in his Denver courtroom. Defense attorneys immediately said they would appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court, if nec essary. They argued that some of the papers indicated there could be more people involved in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred Murrah federal building here. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who earlier granted a stay after 4, 400 pages of additional evidence were found by the FBI, vowed the execution would go forward as scheduled.
"The ruling of the court in Denver today is a ruling for justice," Ashcroft said.
Matsch was visibly angry that the FBI had failed to turn over the evidence to McVeigh's defense, as ordered. But he said there was nothing in the late-found evidence that would in any way mitigate McVeigh's guilt.
"As the 12 jurors believe it (the verdict) is justified under all circumstances a nd executed their moral judgment as a conscience of the community, whatever may in time be discovered about the possible involvement of others does not change the fact that Timothy McVeigh was theinstrument of death and destr uction," Matsch said.
Regardless of whether others had played any role in the bombing, "it is clear Timothy McVeigh committed murder and mayhem as charged," the judge said. Rob Nigh, one of McVeigh's attorneys, said afterward, "We are extremely disappointed in the court's ruling today."
McVeigh was at war against the U.S. government, Matsch said. "But the United States government is not some abstraction, not some alien force. It is the American people, people in the Murrah Building who were there in service to their fellow American people."
Nigh argued that federal officials knew six months ago there were documents that had been withheld from the defense, but did not begin turning them over until six days before McVeigh's original execution date of May 16. It was then that Ashcroft gave McVeigh a one-month stay of execution. Nigh as ked Matsch to give McVeigh additional time to review the FBI papers.
The judge said he recalled getting a letter from Sean Connelly, a federal prosecutor, telling him some documents in he case had been withheld.
"It's a good thing I was in quiet chambers and not in court because my judicial temperament escaped me when I read it," Matsch said. "It was shocking." Connelly has pointed out that McVeigh confessed to the car bombing in a recent book and also said that he alone carried out the worst act of te rrorism on American soil.
Nigh told the court that one of the newly released documents included information on a potential witness, who he said was news to the defense.
The source was not identified, but Matsch said, "You also could understand why one could question the reliability of the source."
Defense attorneys contended in a brief filed Tuesday that they might have been able to identify others who had major roles in the bombing if they had received the disputed 4,400 FBI documents before trial. They also alleged the government is continuing to withhold evidence.