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McVeigh Attorneys Hold Press Conference

Aired May 16, 2001 - 13:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are seeing Robert Nigh, on your right, and attorney Nathan Chambers, on your left. They have just wrapped up their visit with their client, Timothy McVeigh. They are approaching the microphones to tell us what they can about their visit.

NATHAN CHAMBERS, ATTORNEY FOR TIMOTHY MCVEIGH: We had a good meeting with Mr. McVeigh this morning. Obviously, we're not going to answer any questions or make any statements about anything we said to him or anything he said to us. His spirits are good. He remains willing to consider all options that might be available to him.

As the defense team, we have a lot of work to do, and really now is the time for us to work, not talk.

QUESTION: How are you able to look over these documents? It's the two of you at this time. Are you going to be able to do that before June 11?

ROBERT NIGH, ATTORNEY FOR TIMOTHY MCVEIGH: Anything we have to do, we have to do before June 11. But how we intend to go about it, we're not willing to discuss right now.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... talk about your options?

NIGH: No, not even that.

QUESTION: The director of the FBI, I don't know if you would have heard this, it would have been while you were in there, said this morning in Washington that there were more documents that they expected were out there. Have you heard that, that there were additional documents? And if you haven't heard that, what is your reaction to that?

NIGH: We can't make any specific reaction to it at this point. Everything is available to us right now in terms of potential legal options, and we're going to pursue them all.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the government that in fact they found more documents after a scrubbing down of all the FBI offices? QUESTION: If you're going to pursue them, Rob, does that mean that McVeigh didn't tell you to cease and desist?

NIGH: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear both questions at once. What was his question?

QUESTION: If you were examining your options, doesn't that mean that McVeigh is OK with that, to examine options, and that he didn't tell you to cease?

NIGH: That's correct. He said initially that he was willing to consider the possibilities, and that has not changed.

QUESTION: Did the government tell you that they have found more documents, not yet turned over to you, that they are reviewing at this time an unspecified number of documents? That was announced today by FBI Director Louis Freeh during testimony on Capitol Hill. And they said they are currently reviewing those documents to determine whether it's material that they will have to turn over to you.

NIGH: Right now we believe that it would be appropriate for us to communicate with the government directly, through correspondence and the telephone, instead of communicating with them via the media. And that's what we intend to do.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... mood, I think you said, as frustrated. Today you say he's in good spirits. Can you elaborate at all on his mood as he reflects on these options?

CHAMBERS: No.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate taking any further action (inaudible)?

CHAMBERS: None that we can discuss publicly.

QUESTION: Do you expect to meet with him further this week or are you both going back to your offices this week?

CHAMBERS: I'm going home.

QUESTION: Rob, in light of the fact that the burden is so high and that you have to prove that there was some sort of evidence that would have changed the verdict, why continue with this? Do you have any evidence at all that it would change the scenario at all or is this simply an exercise in futility and we're simply waiting for the inevitable, the execution? And can you specifically address materials dealing with John Doe No. 2?

NIGH: That was about five questions. But certainly it is not an exercise in futility. And the legal burden is something that is subject to question.

QUESTION: Do you have any faith now in the government whatsoever? It seems like documents keep coming out every day. Do you have any sense that they could keep forthcoming or that there could be an end to this at some point?

NIGH: Like I said a moment ago, we think that the appropriate way to communicate with the government at this point is directly, with direct statements to them.

QUESTION: Has that been happening the other way around? We're now hearing publicly on their end today that there are more documents out there. Are you hearing this now from us for the first time or have you heard something from them?

NIGH: They're going to have to be their own monitors of their own conduct in how they choose to communicate with us.

QUESTION: If he had said to you, "I don't want to pursue this any further," would you be able to come out here now and say to us he has said that?

CHAMBERS: Well, I'm not going to discuss what Mr. McVeigh said to me and I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what if he's have said this, what if he'd have said something else.

I can tell you that both Mr. Nigh are committed to honoring Mr. McVeigh's wishes.

QUESTION: Can you characterize what kind of a role he's playing as he's waiting for your next advice?

CHAMBERS: An active role.

QUESTION: Have you shown him any of the documents? Did you take him anything in today to take a look at himself?

NIGH: We can't tell you precisely what we discussed with him or how we go about it, because those things, of course, would be privileged, and we intend to honor that.

QUESTION: Bottom line question: How would you assess the likelihood of the execution taking place June the 11?

CHAMBERS: I don't want to get in...

NIGH: We can't predict that.

QUESTION: How do his statements about John Doe No. 2 that were published in the (inaudible), if there is no John Doe No. 2?

NIGH: That would be commenting upon how we analyze all of the facts or alleged facts that are getting put forth now, and we just can't go into that strategy.

QUESTION: That had to be devastating to your case, didn't it? I mean, he's publicly saying in his very...

CHAMBERS: Do I look devastated? QUESTION: I don't know, I've never seen you before.

CHAMBERS: No, we don't...

QUESTION: But I'm just saying, in his clearly distinct handwriting he says there is no John Doe No. 2. So what's the case?

NIGH: We can't go into what the facts are going to shake out to be or what our analysis or legal strategy with those facts will be. And we wanted to be polite and give you the update that we could today. We feel like we've done that. And we appreciate your patience and hope that you all have a good day. Thank you.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Not too much information from the attorneys.

Susan Candiotti was there listening in.

Susan, what we do know, whatever they're deciding, or will decide in the future, we learned that Timothy McVeigh is taking an active role in that.

CANDIOTTI: That is correct. We don't know if that means he has a copy of some or all of the documents, because, as you saw, they would not definite of what they meant by active role. We heard the lawyers describe his mood right now; his spirits are good, in the words of his lawyers. You will recall that just last week, when Mr. McVeigh was informed of the postponement and of the situation with the new materials, his lawyers described him as being distressed, because, they said, he had prepared himself to die and was concerned about how his family -- he didn't mention the victims' families -- might be dealing with all of this as they got ready for his scheduled execution date.

They did add that Mr. McVeigh continues to be willing to consider all of his legal options, and they took umbrage at the thought that things looked bleak for them. When you consider that just the other day Mr. McVeigh once again stated, to a news reporter, that there was no John Doe No. 2, the lawyers said, Do I look devastated -- no. And they are continuing their work.

What options lie ahead? One of the things that the lawyers could do -- and there's no particular timetable to any of this, except for before June 11 -- is to ask a court, possibly, for more time and more money to hire additional investigators to help them go over this material, because it is the two of them. It remains a question as to whether they can accomplish all of this before the June 11 date.

Back to you.

ALLEN: So now it's squarely in the hands of his attorneys and Timothy McVeigh, then, Susan, on whether this takes place on June 11, if they want to fight this.

CANDIOTTI: It would be up to Timothy McVeigh, that is correct. The lawyers have consistently said, if their client did not want him to pursue all their legal options, then they wouldn't do it. To go over his head, so to speak, they would have to prove to the court that he was incompetent of making that decision, for example.

So at this time, the lawyers recap by saying that, in their words, "Everything is available to us in terms of legal options, and we are going to pursue them" -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Susan Candiotti, thank you -- in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Now to Lou.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to call upon our CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack, in Washington.

You've been listening to all of this, Roger. The team of Nigh and Chambers says McVeigh's open to all options that might be available to him. They won't talk about the options, but I assume you will and can.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST ROGER COSSACK: Lou, I'll try to, at least.

Yes, there are a couple of options open. I would suspect that with newly discovered evidence coming out every day, a judge would be very, very receptive to a motion that would be made by this defense team to postpone the execution. The date of June 11 is an arbitrary date, and I don't think it's going to take much by the defense to come in and say, Look, it seems every day we find something new out there.

On this notion that because he said there was no John Doe No. 2, and that's the end of the inquiry, let me just hypothetically suppose that tomorrow he says, Come to think of it, there was a John Doe No. 2, and we really should look into it. That would be every bit as meaningful and every bit as credible -- or incredible -- as what he has said so far.

So I don't think that you can hang your hat on the fact that he has said there was no John Doe No. 2. I think the evidence -- and I think this was what the lawyers were saying -- will speak for itself if there is evidence there that would indicate that further investigation or further inquiry is necessary -- and then that's what will happen.

WATERS: What will the delays be designed to accomplish, since McVeigh has already admitted he did the crime?

COSSACK: First of all, with new evidence, there is an issue here of whether or not the death penalty should be imposed or would have been imposed. If, in fact, new evidence came forward that indicated that McVeigh was culpable but there was someone else as culpable, perhaps that would get him a new inquiry as to whether or not he gets the death penalty.

I'm not saying he's going to be successful in any of these kinds of things, but I'm saying there is a procedure called due process set out by the Constitution of the United States, which, difficult as it may be to follow, must be followed, and there are certain evidentiary issues that have to be done, or else the system falls apart. That's why the FBI is in trouble: because they didn't turn over this evidence.

Whether it has any influence on the outcome -- probably not, but you have to play by the rules.

WATERS: So if McVeigh says, I don't want to go on with this deal...

COSSACK: Then that's the end.

WATERS: That's the end.

COSSACK: If McVeigh says, Listen, I don't really care -- June 11 is a fine date with me to end my life -- I'm instructing my lawyers not to go forward at all, then the lawyers, as they said, will follow his wishes. And that's all they should do. If McVeigh decides that he wants to postpone this and drag this out, then that will happen.

How long it will get dragged out -- how long it will get postponed -- who knows. But we've seen what's happened in the last few days, that the FBI seems to keep coming up with another file or two that they missed, and that is just fuel to that fire.

WATERS: So at least in the short run, McVeigh's in charge of his future.

COSSACK: I would say that -- certainly, in the short run and the long run, he's in charge of his future, in terms of whether or not he wants to die June 11, or whether or not he wants to extend this process for an undetermined period of time.

WATERS: Roger Cossack, CNN legal analyst -- as always.

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