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McVeigh Condemned to Die for Oklahoma City Bombing

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DENVER (AP) — A jury today condemned TimothyMcVeigh to die forthe 168 lives he took in the Oklahoma City bombing, siding withprosecutors who called it ``the crime the death penalty wasdesigned for.''

McVeigh did not flinch, did not even blink. He sat with hishands clasped against his left cheek. His father's shouldersslumped. His sister broke into tears. His mother sat silently.

As he was led out of the courtroom, McVeigh stood and waved tohis parents and mouthed the words: ``It's OK.'' He made the samesmall two-fingered wave to the jurors who condemned him, noddinghis head up and down. They stared blankly.

The jury deliberated for more than 11 hours over two daysbeforedeciding unanimously that the 29-year-old decorated Gulf Warveteran should die by injection. The decision is binding on U.S.District Judge Richard Matsch.

``The decision is final,'' Matsch said, adding he would followthrough with the actual sentencing at a later hearing. ``You'vedone your duty and you've done it well.''

In Oklahoma City, along the fence where the bombed-out federalbuilding once stood, cheers erupted from people who had gathered tolearn McVeigh's fate. Church bells tolled on the half-hour as theverdict came in.

Lyle Cousins, whose wife, Kim, was killed in the blast, said:``I think Timothy McVeigh needs to prepare himself to meet God.That's his judge.''

Bud Welch, whose daughter died in the blast, opposed the deathpenalty for McVeigh. ``The crime that I think he did was one ofhatred against the government. And we as a government react withhatred,'' he said.

It was unknown when - or even if - McVeigh will be executed.Appeals could take three years or more. Also, the U.S. SupremeCourt has never ruled on the constitutionality of the 1994 deathpenalty statute under which McVeigh was tried. He also faces statemurder charges in Oklahoma that carry the death penalty.

As the verdict was read, bombing survivors and victims'familiesin the courtroom gasped and then began to weep, burying their headsin their neighbors' shoulders and holding each other's hands.

Jurors sat with grim expressions, staring blankly. As they werebeing polled, four of them answered ``yes'' while staring straightat McVeigh. McVeigh leaned back in his chair with his hand up tomouth, and watched.

``The jury has spoken and their verdict is entitled to respectand all Americans should accord it that respect until such time ifever it is overturned by a court of competent jurisdiction,''defense attorney Stephen Jones said outside the courthouse.

``We ask that the barriers and intolerance that have divided usmay crumble, that suspicions disappear and that hatreds cease andthat our divisions and intolerance being healed, we may livetogether in justice and peace. God save the United States ofAmerica. God save this honorable court.''

Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler said: ``This is not a day of greatjoy for the prosecution team. We're pleased that the system workedand that justice prevailed. The verdict doesn't diminish the greatsadness that occurred in Oklahoma City two years ago.''

In weighing McVeigh's fate jurors were confronted with twodifferent pictures of the decorated Gulf War veteran: well-meaning,though tragically misguided patriot, or cruel and cowardly traitor.

McVeigh himself never spoke to the jury, although his parentspleaded with jurors to spare his life, describing their son as afriendly, intelligent boy who cared about others.

In the prosecution's death-penalty case, jurors were brought totears by the horrifying stories of survivors and victims'relatives, who described how their lives were torn apart by theApril 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Mothers and fathers spoke of children violently ripped fromtheir lives. Rescuers told of having nightmares about the victimsthey couldn't save. A doctor told of how he amputated a woman's legwith a dirty pocket knife.

The prosecution called 38 witnesses to make the case, asprosecutor Beth Wilkinson said, that the slaughter was ``the crimethat the death penalty was designed for.''

She urged jurors to ``look into the eyes of a coward'' andmuster the courage to sentence him to die for a crime that killedmore people than the total number of Americans who died in combatin the Persian Gulf.

The defense called 27 witnesses, many McVeigh's Army comrades,to show that McVeigh was a Bronze Star-winning soldier, a goodfriend and happy teen-ager until his life changed after the war.

Defense lawyers conceded McVeigh's involvement in the bombingbut said letting him live might provide answers to ``the rest ofthe story'' about the blast.

``Dead men don't tell tales,'' Jones said. ``We don't want aLeeHarvey Oswald here. We don't want an Oliver Stone movie. We don'twant a Warren Commission report.''

McVeigh's lawyers said he developed a deep concern about theabuse of power by the federal government. And the seed that grewinto the blast was planted at the deadly 1993 siege at Waco.

``It is a political crime. It is an ideological crime,'' Jonessaid. ``He is not a demon, though surely his act was demonic.''

Jones also hinted darkly that executing McVeigh could causemorebloodshed, and asked jurors ``to make the first step to restoredomestic tranquility.''

Prosecutors portrayed that statement as tantamount to a``terrorist threat'' and implored jurors to ignore it.

By PAUL QUEARY,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

Copyright 2022 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.