McVeigh: The End of the Road?

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Rob Nigh, right, and Richard Burr, attorneys for Timothy McVeigh

We may have finally reached the end of the Timothy McVeigh saga. Thursday afternoon, after a day of considering arguments from McVeigh’s attorneys and government counterparts, a three-judge panel from the 10th U.S. Circuit denied McVeigh's request for a stay of execution, saying his attorneys "utterly failed to demonstrate substantial grounds" why he should should not die next week in Terre Haute, Indiana. What's next? McVeigh's attorney Robert Nigh said Thursday evening his client is "prepared to die," and does not want to continue his appeals. According to Nigh, McVeigh has no plans to ask for presidential clemency.

It's been a bad week for McVeigh; Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch refused to delay the execution date for the convicted Oklahoma City bomber, ruling that McVeigh should die on Monday, June 11th for his role in the 1995 explosion that killed 168 people.

Many had expected Matsch to grant McVeigh’s request for the delay; the defense argued that the government had committed "a fraud upon the court" by withholding almost 4,000 documents from the trial. (The documents were uncovered by FBI staffers less than a week before McVeigh’s original execution date in May). Those documents, the defense insists, may identify new accomplices — and potentially shift some of the blame from McVeigh’s shoulders.

Their argument, if not their reasoning, had plenty of supporters: Even if the newly uncovered evidence contained no exculpatory evidence, some reasoned it would be safer for Matsch to err on the side of caution — especially in a case so rife with anti-government, anti-establishment tensions.

Instead, Matsch ruled against McVeigh, saying, "As the 12 jurors believe the verdict (against McVeigh) is justified under all circumstances and executed their moral judgment as a conscience of the community, whatever in time may be discovered about the possible involvement of others does not change the fact that Timothy McVeigh was the instrument of death and destruction."

Matsch's judgment was met with praise — Attorney General John Ashcroft called Matsch’s decision "a ruling for justice" — and with criticism — McVeigh attorney Robert Nigh expressed "extreme disappointment — and the Appeals Court's decision was met with more of the same. In Terre Haute, Indiana, where McVeigh is scheduled to die Monday, the rush of rulings prompted a rush of preparations, as restaurateurs and motel owners scrambled to get ready for the onslaught of media and curiosity seekers expected to descend upon the city over the next few days.