Crime and Punishment: Day of Reckoning


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Jurors and spectators sobbed last week as they listened to the witnesses describe the horrors they and others endured. "I saw a body in a blanket," recalled Jerry Flowers, a member of the Oklahoma City police force. "When I opened up the blanket, there was a 5-year-old boy. His face was gone." David William Klaus, whose daughter died in the bombing, told the jury that he and his wife got married on April 19, 1963, but now they celebrate their anniversary on the following day. Struggling to hold back tears, Klaus said, "There's just this huge hole in my heart that's never going to be filled up."

Businessman Mike Lenz recalled that on the day before the bombing, he looked on as his pregnant wife had a sonogram. Lenz saw that the baby was a boy and gave him a name on the spot--Michael James Lenz III. Lenz's wife and the child she was carrying were both killed the next day. "In one fell swoop, I went from being a husband and a daddy to realizing it was all gone," he said. "There was a point when I actually stuck a pistol in my mouth." Policeman Alan Propkop found a wounded baby with a brick lodged in his body; kicking a moving ambulance, he succeeded in making it stop so that the baby could be taken to the hospital.

One after another, the tragic accounts tumbled forth. Cliff Cagle, whose face was mangled by the bomb, was almost hysterical on the stand. "I lost my job, my honor," he said, "and my grandsons have to see me like this!" A surgeon told of resorting to his pocketknife to amputate the leg of Daina Bradley. Sue Mallonee, an epidemiologist, explained the injuries seen in pictures shown to the jury: dozens of lacerations on Fred Kubasta's back; the severed jugular vein, carotid artery and esophagus of Polly Nichols (miraculously, she lived).

Throughout the hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch has proscribed evidence he considered inflammatory. He wants the jury to make a reasoned decision based on fact, he said, and so he disallowed pictures of the victims' weddings, for example, and ruled that a nine-year-old boy, Clint Seidl, could not testify about the loss of his mother. The boy's "age and innocence," Matsch said, would make his testimony appeal too much to the emotions. But keeping emotions out of the proceeding was impossible, and jurors cried again and again. The prosecution's final witness was Clint's father Glenn, who read a statement written by the boy. "I will," it said "still make my mother Mother's Day and Valentine's Day cards like the other kids."

Of all the people involved in the case, the one who has been most stoical is the defendant. He showed no emotion when the verdicts were read, nor did he react during the testimony of the victims last week. While others wept, he sat at the defense table in his impassive pose, with his chin resting on his hands. Lawyers and spectators were shocked that McVeigh remained so unmoved, and the jury may also have been affected. "McVeigh's demeanor matters," said Larry Pozner, a veteran defense attorney in Denver. "The jurors see everything and forget nothing. The demeanor of Timothy McVeigh will be weighed."

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