McVeigh prosecutors predict execution will go forward
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Prosecutors who handled the case of Timothy McVeigh predicted Monday the convicted Oklahoma City's bomber's guilty verdict and death sentence would stand despite the FBI's revelation it had withheld some documents from the defense.
Over the weekend, McVeigh's lawyers said their client was re-evaluating his options, including the possibility that he would seek a new trial or a further delay in his execution, now scheduled for June 11.
"He gave me the definite impression that he's at least willing to keep an open mind for the time being," lawyer Robert Nigh Jr., an ardent death penalty foe, said on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.
The 11th-hour wrinkle in the case came after the FBI revealed Friday that it had not provided defense attorneys with more than 3,000 pages of interviews with witnesses to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
McVeigh's execution had been scheduled for Wednesday, but Attorney General John Ashcroft postponed it until June 11 to allow defense attorneys to review the material.
Pat Ryan, one of the prosecutors in the case, told CNN that McVeigh's lawyers could go before federal Judge Richard Matsch, who presided over the original trial in Denver, and request a new trial.
"The legal standard for that is very high," Ryan said. "Essentially, he would have to prove that he would not have been convicted if he had the evidence that is now being provided. That is an impossible standard for him to meet."
Prosecutor Larry Mackey agreed.
"I don't bet, but I feel very, very certain that nothing about this development will change the outcome of the Tim McVeigh case," he said.
The same, he added, applies to the case of co-conspirator Terry Nichols, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing. His attorneys filed papers with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday, narrowly beating a midnight deadline. They are seeking a new trial. His previous bid for a new trial was rebuffed.
The FBI was blasted this weekend by lawmakers who questioned how the nation's top law enforcement agency could have flubbed its handling of the high-profile case.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called for President Bush to appoint a blue-ribbon commission of law-enforcement experts for a "top to bottom" review of the FBI in light of the apparent mistake. He also said a Senate subcommittee would investigate the matter.
Despite Ashcroft's statement to an Oklahoma newspaper that there would be no further delays in the execution, Nigh said it was "certainly possible" he would need more time to sift through the documents.
He also might want to interview the witnesses, he said. Nigh could go to court, if McVeigh agrees, seeking a further delay in the execution or a new trial.
"Anything is possible," Nigh said.
Most of the documents deal with the purported sightings of an accomplice to McVeigh. Prosecutors said those leads never panned out and they emphasized their belief that the documents wouldn't have changed the guilty verdict rendered against McVeigh.
"As I said, my understanding is that the documents contain the same type of information that we have already disclosed to the defense, sightings of John Doe Two, other call-ins from citizens," said Beth Wilkinson, a former federal prosecutor in the McVeigh case. "None of that information goes to Mr. McVeigh's guilt. Mr. McVeigh's guilt was proved by his participation. It was proved overwhelmingly at trial, and now has been corroborated by his own admissions."
One frequent critic of the FBI found fault with the overall operations of the agency.
"I think there's a management culture here that's at fault. I call it a cowboy culture," Sen. Charles Grassley R-Iowa, said Sunday on ABC's This Week. "It's the kind of a culture that puts image, public relations and headlines ahead of the fundamentals of the FBI."
The agency's defenders said the mistake was serious, but noted that the FBI brought it to light.
"My thought is that this was unfortunately a very tragic mistake, one that needs to be looked into, but was nothing that suggests any type of conspiracy," said William Daly, a former FBI agent.
Senators lining up to question FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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