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Defense: Feds violated McVeigh's right to fair trial

McVeigh has admitted bombing the Murrah Federal Building in April 1995
McVeigh has admitted bombing the Murrah Federal Building in April 1995  


DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- Lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh accuse the government of "fraud upon the court" by consistently and repeatedly withholding evidence from the defense and lying to the court about it.

The defense team is seeking a stay of execution for McVeigh.

The attorneys outlined their claim in court filings Thursday, citing orders by the court a few years ago, statements made by prosecutors and other information to support their argument.

The defense motion follows the recent handover by the government of 4,449 pages of documents to McVeigh's lawyers -- material that should have been handed over before McVeigh's 1997 trial.

graphic DOCUMENT
McVeigh Petition for Stay of Execution (redacted) (FindLaw) (PDF)

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graphic ON THE SCENE
Roger Cossack: McVeigh motion for execution delay
 
graphic IN-DEPTH
Execution of Timothy McVeigh
Oklahoma City Bombing
 
graphic VIDEO
In a press conference, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft discusses FBI handling of documents in the McVeigh bombing case (May 24)

Part I | Part II
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)
 
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Timeline: FBI under Louis Freeh
Previous FBI controversies
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McVeigh files for stay: 'It's a power issue'
graphic ALSO
McVeigh defense asks for new execution stay

McVeigh was convicted of murder for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, including 19 children.

Most of those FBI documents were handed over about a week before McVeigh's original execution date of May 16. The emergence of that evidence prompted Attorney General John Ashcroft to postpone the execution until June 11.

"The government's false statements that everything had been obtained and produced worked a fraud upon the court and defeated Mr. McVeigh's right to a fair trial and sentencing proceeding," wrote attorneys Robert Nigh, Nathan Chambers, Richard Burr and Christopher Tritico.

To back their claim, McVeigh's attorneys cited more than a dozen statements by prosecutors to the court over the years that they were complying fully with sharing all evidence with the defense.

"McVeigh has received all witness statements," said one government statement; another stated, "Simply put, the prosecution has disclosed all materials and information -- even that to which the defense has no legal entitlement -- gathered in connection with the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing, with only minor exceptions."

In addition, McVeigh's attorneys quoted a court statement prior to the trial that directed the government on what it must do to ensure McVeigh's constitutional rights were met. The failure to comply "with a constitutional command to present evidence fairly at trial is not excused by an inconvenience, expense, annoyance or delay," the court said.

McVeigh's lawyers wrote that the government was in clear violation of the court.

"The government's representations to the court were consistent and unequivocal, and now we know untrue," wrote McVeigh's lawyers.

"The only remedy is for the court to grant a stay of execution and allow Mr. McVeigh to reopen his motion (seeking a new trial) based upon the government's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence."

The attorneys also asked Matsch to hold a hearing into what led to the withholding of the evidence. Such a hearing is required, the lawyers argue, "so that the true facts concerning the manner in which this evidence was withheld, and whether other exculpatory evidence continues to be withheld, can be accurately ascertained."

The lawyers added, "Mr. McVeigh will demonstrate that there is substantial reason to believe that exculpatory evidence continues to be withheld and that some may have been intentionally destroyed or not documented."

The government has until 5 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT) Monday to provide a written response to the defense motion. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who presided over McVeigh's 1997 trial, scheduled a hearing for Wednesday at 9 a.m. (11 a.m. EDT).


Greta@LAW







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