Crime and Punishment: Day of Reckoning


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McVeigh has not made it any easier for his lawyers to convince the jury that he is a real human being like them, with blood running through his veins, who deserves a measure of clemency. The most effective way to make this case would be to call McVeigh to the stand, where he could ask for mercy. Simply by talking to the jury, he would become a less cold and anonymous figure. According to sources familiar with the defense, however, McVeigh will not testify.

So the defense lawyers must turn to others to engender sympathy for their client. The first witnesses Burr called were friends of McVeigh's from the Army. "He was outstanding," said Jose Rodriguez. "He was a quick study and very intelligent." McVeigh's uniform was put on display. Among the decorations was a Bronze Star won for service in the Gulf War. Neighbors from McVeigh's hometown in upstate New York also testified. "He was just a nice kid," said John McDermott. He told how McVeigh baby-sat for his children and collected comic books. Then he broke down, saying, "I like him. I can't imagine him doing something like this."

Sources familiar with the defense tell TIME that the most important witness Burr intends to call is William McVeigh, the defendant's father. He will be put on last and will narrate a short film that he produced with the help of the defense and with the permission of Matsch. The film is about 15 min. long and shows Tim as a child with his family--a regular American kid. McVeigh's mother, who is divorced from his father, will not testify, say sources, because she is not up to it.

The defense also plans to call some of McVeigh's teachers and may introduce his elementary and high school records, copies of which TIME has obtained. "Tim is a very self-confident student," wrote Miss Chrzaszcz, who taught McVeigh in sixth grade. "He works very hard in the classroom. I will miss him very much." Throughout elementary school, McVeigh was described as "cooperative," "friendly," "helpful" and "well liked." In high school he graduated 49th in a class of 177; his IQ was measured at between 119 and 123. Here, the defense will argue, was a boy with a good future, whose life somehow went awry.

Federal law allows the defense to raise any "circumstance of the offense that mitigates against the imposition of the death sentence." Under this provision, Burr hopes to explain to the jury that McVeigh was sincerely motivated by anger over the FBI attack at Waco. In his opening statement, he told the jury, "You will hear that the fire of Waco did keep burning in Mr. McVeigh." Burr plans to play three videotapes about Waco that influenced McVeigh: The Big Lie, The Waco Incident and Day 51. McVeigh will submit an affidavit concerning his readings about Waco, and the defense will call Dick Reavis, the author of Ashes of Waco. Stuart Wright, the editor of Armageddon at Waco, will assist the defense on this week's testimony.

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