FBI turns over thousands of documents to McVeigh defense team
DENVER (AP) – Just six days before Timothy McVeigh’s scheduled execution, the FBI turned over thousands of documents from the Oklahoma City bombing investigation to McVeigh’s defense team Thursday. An attorney said the materials may prompt a request for a stay.
”We’re considering all our options,” McVeigh lawyer Nathan Chambers said after the documents, which the FBI said were mistakenly withheld, were delivered to his office in Denver.
Chambers said he had spoken to McVeigh about the documents but declined to reveal what he said. ”Mr. McVeigh is going to think about it and decide how he wants to proceed,” he said.
The disclosure was a jarring development, coming as federal law enforcement officials make final preparations for McVeigh’s lethal injection at a federal prison facility in Terre Haute, Ind., next Wednesday.
The Justice Department said ”a number of FBI documents” should have been provided to McVeigh’s attorneys during the discovery phase of his 1997 trial in Denver federal court.
”While the department is confident the documents do not in any way create any reasonable doubt about McVeigh’s guilt and do not contradict his repeated confessions of guilt, the department is concerned that McVeigh’s attorneys were not able to review them at the appropriate time,” the agency said in a statement.
The agency said it has asked defense attorneys for notification if they believe the documents throw McVeigh’s guilt into question.
McVeigh’s trial judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, was not immediately available to comment.
In a recently published book, ”American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & The Oklahoma City Bombing,” McVeigh claimed sole responsibility for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred R. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds of others.
”My decision to take human life at the Murrah Building – I did not do it for personal gain. … I did it for the larger good,” he told the book’s authors.
He had also ordered his lawyers not to intervene in his case.
The FBI discovered the mistake as it gathered documents for archiving, said a law enforcement official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity. A source said an initial FBI review indicated the withholding was an accident and not an attempt to disrupt McVeigh’s defense.
The documents include FBI records of interviews and other matters related to the investigation. Chambers said he was not aware of their existence until Wednesday when told of them in a telephone call from Sean Connelly of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver.
”Here we are a full six years after the bombing and a less than a week before Mr. McVeigh’s scheduled execution and these reports mysteriously appear. So it’s a cause for concern,” Chambers said.
Similar documents formed the basis of an unsuccessful appeal by bombing co-defendant Terry Nichols, who claimed the papers could have changed the outcome of his federal trial. He was found guilty of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison.
Chambers declined to say whether the documents would be favorable to any appeal by McVeigh.
”If it becomes an issue, the courts will deal with it,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Reporter Karen Gullo in Washington contributed to this report.
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