Ashcroft says all documents now given to McVeigh’s lawyers
WASHINGTON (AP) – Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday that federal officials have given Timothy McVeigh’s lawyers all previously missing documents in the Oklahoma City bombing case. He said he will not further postpone McVeigh’s June 11 execution.
Ashcroft said a worldwide search for documents, ordered in the wake of the FBI’s disclosure that it failed to produce some 3,000 pages at the time of McVeigh’s trial, turned up some 900 additional pages. In all, 4,034 pages were found.
But he emphasized that the documents produced belatedly represented ”less than 1 percent” of the hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence in the case.
”No documents created any doubt about his guilt, let alone established his innocence,” Ashcroft told a Justice Department news conference.
Defense lawyer Rob Nigh said McVeigh has not decided whether he wants to seek a delay in the execution. But the attorney said the newly released documents – including information about the FBI’s search for an alleged accomplice known as John Doe 2, who never materialized – would bolster McVeigh’s request should he make one.
”Certainly, I have found information contained within the documents that is more than, ‘John Doe 2 looks like my brother-in-law,”’ Nigh said.
McVeigh claims he acted alone.
Some of the material covers sightings of a possible co-conspirator, illustrated in an FBI sketch after the bombing. The government maintains that the John Doe 2 material is not relevant to the case.
Nigh said some of the documents contained witness statements that could have aided McVeigh’s defense at the time of the trial.
Ashcroft sent a clear warning the government would fight any attempts by McVeigh’s lawyers to avoid his execution.
”We are prepared to defend McVeigh’s conviction and the sentence that has been imposed,” Ashcroft said. ”Any filings that would be made on behalf of Mr. McVeigh to avoid the imposition of the sentence would be opposed vigorously by this department.”
He said the defense had been given a ”reasonable opportunity” to review the documents. ”They have had those documents for almost two weeks, and there are still more than two weeks intervening between now and June 11.”
Nathan Chambers, a member of McVeigh’s legal team, said June 11 ”is unrealistic. We need time and it’s pretty clear to me what their intention is right now.”
Ashcroft released a Justice Department report that gave the agency’s explanation of what was in the documents.
The report said many of the documents were ”worthless.” Many pages memorialized ”contacts that generated no information,” and many items were deemed ”extraneous” in that they included photographs, fingerprint cards and criminal history reports of people who turned out to have no connection to the case.
Specific details of the evidence were blacked out of the report. A full copy of the report was provided to McVeigh’s lawyers.
The report hinted the government would likely point to McVeigh’s admissions of guilt were he to raise a legal challenge.
”Any reliance by McVeigh at this late date upon alleged JD2s or other alternative perpetrators would be at odds with his recent and explicit admissions that no such person existed,” the report said.
”McVeigh’s recent admissions, when coupled with the ‘direct and compelling’ evidence ‘presented at trial,’ foreclose any credible claim that McVeigh is actually innocent of the bombing,” the report said.
Ashcroft said that on Thursday, the Justice Department and FBI had completed a ”comprehensive effort” to identify all documents still missing and relevant to the case.
He said he was making public the results of an internal review of the documents but could not release them because of a protective order imposed by a federal court in Colorado.
Ashcroft also said, ”We’re talking about a relatively small amount of information,” and briefly described the nature of some of the missing documents. One involved a letter written to federal authorities by a man offering information while demanding money and the release of a federal prisoner.
In other instances, he said, the missing documents were newspaper and magazine clippings sent in by ”a person under psychiatric care,” and letters representing offers by psychics to help.
The bureau acknowledged on May 10 – six days before McVeigh was to be put to death – that it had failed to produce thousands of pages of evidence documents to McVeigh’s lawyers at the time of his trial in 1997.
The FBI says they were withheld because of computer and record-keeping blunders at the agency’s field offices.
McVeigh was convicted in connection with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and sentenced to death in the terrorist attack that killed 168 people, including 19 children.
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