by Bill Johnson
American Reporter Correspondent
Oklahoma City, Okla.
January 16, 2001
OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBER McVEIGH SET TO DIE MAY 16
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The man who blew up the federal building was told Tuesday he will die for that crime on May 16.
Timothy McVeigh, who voluntarily gave up his right to further appeals, was notified of the date in a letter delivered to his cell in the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind. the U.S. Bureau of Prisons will announce the exact time later.
McVeigh has indicated he will seek a presidential pardon, and officials said he has 30 days to do that. His petition, if he files one, apparently will go to President-elect George W. Bush, a staunch defender of the death penalty.
McVeigh, a 32-year-old decorated Gulf War veteran who later turned against the government, was convicted of the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others. Among the dead were 19 children, most of them in the building's second-floor child-care center. He will be put to death in the federal prison by lethal injection, the method of execution used in Oklahoma, where his terrorist crime occurred.
Over the years since McVeigh was convicted by a federal court jury in Denver, survivors of the bombing and the relatives of those who died have split into opposing camps over whether he should die. Some say the worst punishment McVeigh could receive would be to spend the rest of his life locked up.
Jeannie Coverdale, whose two young grandsons were among the victims, said Tuesday she had been waiting for the day McVeigh was put to death. Coverdale said she was convinced McVeigh did not act along and that her sole concern was that he would go to his death without identifying those others.
But, she said, "As long as he lives, he is a threat to others."
Others oppose McVeigh's execution because they believe he wants only to become a martyr to anti-government organizations.
In a February interview on the CBS program "60 Minutes," McVeigh said he was prepared for death. He said that from his "psychological perspective, it's a little easier being on death row. Because you knowhow you're going to die. You can narrow down where you're going to die, and you can pretty much narrow down the time."
McVeigh has never accepted responsibility for the bombing, and has said that the government, ultimately, was to blame. He said in a television interview last year that he was bitter over the Gulf War. There were reports that he wanted to enter the Special Services, but washed out of the school.
He said his anger at the government deepened after the federal siege and the shooting death of Randy Weaver's wife in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the fiery deaths of Branch Davidian members after another federal standoff near Waco, Texas.
The last civilian executed by the federal government was Victor Feguer, who was hanged in 1963. Another federal prisoner is scheduled for execution before McVeigh, but he has not exhausted all his appeals, meaning that McVeigh probably will die first.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who presided over McVeigh's trial, held a hearing last month to determine whether McVeigh was competent to make the decision to give up any further appeals. McVeigh participated through a closed-circuit television setup from his prison.
After closely questioning McVeigh for more than a half-hour, Matsch ruled that McVeigh was competent to made his decision. The deadline for McVeigh to change his mind about future appeals expired late last week. Matsch held at the conclusion of that hearing "that there is nothing inherently irrational about a person making a decision to accept the judgment of a court."
The judge added that it was his finding "that by your demeanor and manner and by the answers you have given to me to these questions, you have demonstrated that the decision that you have made and communicated to this court is a decision that has been made knowingly."