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Judge Denies Stay of Execution for McVeigh, Appeal Expected

Aired June 6, 2001 - 14:33   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lawyers are appealing and that process is expected to go quickly, as we should learn whether this execution will take place Monday or not very soon. Let's go back to Denver. CNN's Susan Candiotti, who has been covering this story from the very start.

Were there many more associated like Mr. Heath, Susan, that were associated with the bombing that were there in the court room today?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not really, Natalie. Mostly news media, and some interested observers including lawyers. But for the most part, Dr. Heath was the sole survivor who was present in the courtroom this day.


ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: Of course, we are extremely disappointed in the court's ruling today. We will file on Mr. McVeigh's behalf an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and it is to that issue, we must turn our immediate attention. We apologize that we will not be able to address further of your questions at this point, but as you are well aware, we have a lot of work to do. Thank you very much.


CANDIOTTI: That was defense attorney Rob Nigh, upon hearing that the judge had denied his request for a stay of execution. At the start of today's hearing which went on for about an hour and a half, the defense continued to hammer on its charge of fraud.

In the words of that attorney, Robert Nigh, he said: "we think there is ample evidence something went horribly wrong."

But Judge Matsch obviously disagreed. He said that indeed he too was shocked to hear about the revelation that the FBI had clearly failed to turn over all the documents as it should have before trial. However, he did not agree with the defense claim that any of this calls into question the integrity of the criminal justice system. He says others may question whether this calls into the integrity of the FBI.

The judge then went on to point out following: he said Timothy McVeigh is not claiming innocence. And he said he does not buy the defense claim that the death sentence might be different if the jury somehow had had information -- additional information that they already did not have, that other people might also have been implicated.

This, of course, a devastating blow to the defense attorneys who were trying to win a stay of execution for Timothy McVeigh. However, the government is obviously applauding the court's actions this day. They said that there was never any intent to commit fraud upon this court and that there was nothing in any of those documents belatedly turned over to the defense that calls into question Timothy McVeigh's guilt. They said they were satisfied with this decision.


SEAN CONNELLY, PROSECUTOR: We're pleased with the court's ruling denying any stay of execution. Judge Matsch's ruling was a powerful and eloquent statement, not only about the law associated with this case, but about the tremendous harm and devastation caused by Timothy McVeigh.

Judge Matsch found that for anybody everybody that sat through the evidence and heard the evidence at trial there can be no doubt that Timothy McVeigh exploded a Ryder truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 men, women and children, and maiming and injuring scores more.


CANDIOTTI: After talking to many legal analysts before this hearing even began, many of them thought that an extension would be a foregone conclusion and they said they would be flabbergasted if the judge did not grant a stay.

Quite clearly, Natalie, there are a lot of flabbergasted lawyers this day.

Back to you.

ALLEN: And considering that, how has many of his outcomes in trial wound up -- appeals court -- what I'm trying to say, reacted to decisions that he has rendered?

CANDIOTTI: Well in fact, the appeals courts leading up to this have denied each and every appeal that Timothy McVeigh had requested, but you will remember it was last December when Timothy McVeigh, having lost a couple of appeals, waived his right to any further appeals; and the judge made mention of that this day.

Although he did accept the argument that the defense was trying to make, perhaps a fraud had been committed upon the court. But ultimately, Judge Matsch ruled that he saw no evidence of that. So now, it's up to the defense attorneys to turn their attention to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately perhaps, the U.S. Supreme Court to see if they are more successful there.

ALLEN: All right, Susan Candiotti in Denver, thanks Susan. Lou? LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, the folks touched most profoundly by any ruling involving Timothy McVeigh are the folks in Oklahoma City, where 168 people died. Gary Tuchman is keeping watch over them this afternoon -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we come to you from the Oklahoma City National Memorial; this is where the Murrah Federal Building used to stand before the explosion. It's a museum dedicated to the victims and the survivors. There's barely a mention of Timothy McVeigh inside the museum. One mention, to be precise. But today, the talk of the city and the talk of this museum is the fate of Timothy McVeigh.

With us now is Lyle Cousins. Lyle lost his wife, Kim in the explosion six years and two months ago.

Lyle, when you heard the news that the stay was denied, what did you think?

LYLE COUSINS, HUSBAND OF BOMBING VICTIM: I was really pleased. I was anticipating a stay.

TUCHMAN: Were you surprised? Shocked?

COUSINS: Yes, I was really surprised.

TUCHMAN: Now that the fact has come out that the judge has decided to deny the stay, do you feel the execution will be carried out on Monday?

COUSINS: I would say there's a 95 percent chance he dies Monday morning. And unless the 10th Circuit were to overturn Judge Matsch's decision or find that he didn't apply the law correctly today, I think there is a zero chance that the Supreme Court even hears this case.

TUCHMAN: You were telling me before that you are not going to be one of the people to watch the closed-circuit telecast of the execution. How come?

COUSINS: He's just not worth it. I won't get up early Monday morning, and let him disrupt my life one more day. I'm just hoping when I get up and turn the TV on Monday morning, it will be over.

TUCHMAN: When it is over, if it does happen Monday, tell me what you think will be going through your mind and your heart.

COUSINS: Relief I guess, more than anything. No events in my life can't be manipulated by him because of all the sudden, at a time I don't want to think about, the bombing or what we have been through, all of a sudden have to deal with a new story about Timothy McVeigh or something he has done or said.

TUCHMAN: Lyle, how are you and your family coping?

COUSINS: We are really doing well. We've been six years waiting for this, time is the best healer. And we've had time to do a lot of healing. So, my heart goes out to Tim's family, but I think Tim's time is up.

TUCHMAN: Lyle Cousins, thanks for talking with us.

COUSINS: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: One thing that is notable about what Lyle says is the surprise about the decision today. It is fair to say that there is a lot of surprise, much shock, as a matter of fact. We have talked to many family members of the victims and the survivors today, not one of them told us before this decision was issued that they expected it to come out this way.

Lou, back you.

WATERS: Surprise among the legal profession, too, Gary, we might note.

Gary Tuchman from Oklahoma City -- Natalie.

ALLEN: In a moment, we will talk with another man who didn't lose his children, but they were in the day care center the day of the bombing. And were injured. We'll get his reaction in a moment.

WATERS: Story of the hour, the denial of a stay of execution for Timothy McVeigh from Federal Judge Matsch in Denver about an hour ago. And we are checking in with folks who were most profoundly effected by that explosion in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. One of whom is Jim Denny, who had children who were involved in the bombing, but who survived. Brandon and Rebecca.

How are the children doing now, Jim?

JIM DENNY: They're doing great, Lou. I just got done chasing them around the house; I'm a little out of breath. This is a -- Brandon and Rebecca are what Tim McVeigh called collateral damage. So, they are healthy, they are doing great, Brandon continues therapy three times a week, and will for years to come, but that's OK; we are doing just fine.

WATERS: Good for you. And Jim Denny, we have checked with a lot of your friends and neighbors, and they, to a man and a woman there, say they are surprised that Judge Matsch denied this stay of execution today. What say you?

DENNY: I will tell you, Lou, nothing since April 19, 1995 in this case could surprise me. I will tell you what this is, this is not just a victory for victims. This is a victory for our justice system.

When one of our agencies made a mistake, a very crucial mistake, Judge Matsch was able to determine the difference between what people were talking about and what is reality; and the reality is, there's no facts behind Timothy McVeigh any kind of innocence, or John Doe Number Two, et cetera, et cetera. So, I think it really says a lot about our justice system. And although, I'm for the death penalty, I must say that we will not be viewing the execution. We will be spending time with our family. There is such a fine line, especially when you are a victim or you're a family member of a victim, there's such a fine line between revenge and justice. And we definitely believe in the death penalty, because it's justice. And justice will be carried out I believe Monday.

WATERS: So, you are pro-death penalty, at least in this case.


WATERS: But will you realize some kind of emotional release or relief because Timothy McVeigh dies on Monday?

DENNY: I'm sure we will sense a little bit of relief, because you know, Timothy McVeigh being in prison, he's actually continued his terrorism from prison trying to anger victims and anger our justice system, and this is the first opportunity the world has a chance to hear or see from a true terrorist. So it's been quite different, it has been quite an experience.

We are going to stay focused on our family and we're going to use what happened in Oklahoma City April 19, 1995 as a learning process and just keep moving ahead in your lives.

WATERS: We are watching pictures of your family right now. Pictures of your children, Brandon and Rebecca. What do you tell them about what happened?

DENNY: They know what happened. They know where they were at. They know who did it. They know Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are the ones that bombed the federal building; and they know Timothy McVeigh will be put to death. We explained how the process will work.

But it's very hard to explain to children what is justice. We want to make sure that they know that he is not getting this punishment because of any anger or hatred; he's getting it because it's the law. We also want them to know that life is the most precious thing on the face of the earth.

And we don't do this lightly to people. It's something that takes a lot of thought and a real long process. I think we went through the process and it worked.

WATERS: John Ashcroft said just a short while ago that we needed this extra time before Judge Matsch hearing to find the system innocent. I guess, from your comments, you agree with that, while you are pro-death penalty, you are not against that stay that was granted by Ashcroft.

DENNY: Oh, absolutely not. I don't think John Ashcroft could have done a better job. I want to commend him. think he did a wonderful job. I think it did prove that our justice system is innocent. You know, we make mistakes, we're human beings, and of course, what happened with the FBI and the paperwork from 46 different offices around the continent, was a pure mistake. I mean, either that or it's the largest conspiracy ever known to mankind.

So, I think it brought the conspiracy theorists out of the closest. That's OK. It gave them something to talk about for a couple of weeks, but it proved our system works. And we're willing to go along with it. Even if we had been pro-death penalty, we would have been more than happy to, if Tim McVeigh would have got life in prison. He's just not a focal point of our family. The focal point is the justice system itself and it does work.

WATERS: Now we are waiting the outcome of an appeal before the 10th Circuit. Other than that, if this goes through at 7:00 a.m. your time, will you be dialed in? Where will you be?

DENNY: We'll probably be doing a few interviews; in fact, I think we are scheduled to do one in the evening with CNN. And we will say about the same thing, that our system worked, that we have one less terrorist to worry about, whether it would be on the outside of jail or the inside of jail.

I think it's important now that everybody really get on with their lives. And one of the most important things to our family, and we will lobby for hopefully for months to come, will be the fact that we want Terry Nichols sent back to Colorado to spend the rest of his life in prison, not tried here for capital murder.

WATERS: How has this effected your life, Jim? We have talked to some victim's family members, some of which are now actively engaged in victims' rights programs and movements. Has this traumatized you in such a way that your life has been unalterably changed?

DENNY: I tell you, even though, 14 minutes after the bombing, when I stood across the street from the Murrah Federal Building and with cars smoldering behind me, and looked up at the second floor which was the day care and saw it was blown out of the building itself, that's reality.

I tell you, we are a very strong faith family. We have a good family values, and a lot of good friends. When I met up with Claudia down there, about 20 minutes after the bombing, I grabbed her by the shoulders. Before she even seen the building, and said, you know, no matter what happens, we are in this together. I think i was even setting up -- because of my strong faith, was setting up our future, then thinking our children were gone.

In our lives, we take so much for granted. We live every day like it's our last. We take a minute at a time, and boy, we enjoy every minute of it.

WATERS: I don't mean to take you back...

DENNY: That's fine.

WATERS: ...for any other reason, because I'm a parent of young sons. I just can't imagine what you must have gone through that day not knowing. DENNY: Well, it was tough. We didn't find Rebecca until 11:45 that morning by way of television and we didn't find Brandon until about 4:30 that afternoon. So, even though Brandon was critical for 30 days, and they couldn't tell us whether we'd lived or died, we actually had two children.

And I said after we found Brandon, he lost a portion of his brain, and we were not sure whether he would live or whether he'd ever walk or talk again, because that's the portion of the brain he lost. I would be willing to carry him around for the rest of my life. We had our children back. We had our family back together.

And I will tell you, Lou, there's not a day that goes by that we don't pray for the other victims and their family members. We don't know what they are going through.

And I want to make one really strong point. Even though our attitude has never been one of anger or hatred are or wanting to see somebody put to death necessarily, we are no better than the other families. We are all trying to get through this in our own way and -- 3 1/2 million Oklahomans and we are all family and we all stick together. It's wonderful.

It's a wonderful day today to see that our system works, but once again it will not be a happy day Monday and it never is when somebody is put to death.

WATERS: Jim Denny, you are an inspiration to all of us. Good luck to you and your family. Appreciate your time this afternoon. Jim Denny from Oklahoma City -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, he is an inspiration.

We have just learned that the president was notified of Judge Matsch's decision as he left a memorial for the dedication of a new World War II memorial on this D-day anniversary. He was informed as he got into his car. We don't know what his reaction was and the White House is referring all other questions over to the Justice Department. That's all we know about the president's reaction to this decision. We will take a break. More news after this.


ALLEN: CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Oklahoma City. He's been talking with people who were affected by the bombing in Oklahoma City several years ago, those that lost loved ones and those that were there and were rescued. Gary joins us again.

TUCHMAN: Well, Natalie, we are at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. This is where the Murrah Building used to stand before it was imploded following the explosion on April 19, 1995. All day we've been talking to family members of victims and survivors, some who've come out here, some on the telephone. There's one word they all have in common, that word: surprise. And one of them right now who feels the same exact way is Paul Howell. His daughter Karan Shepherd was in the building. She perished in the bombing, one of the 168 who died. PAUL HOWELL, FATHER OF BOMBING VICTIM: That's correct, sir.

TUCHMAN: Paul, were you shocked when you heard the stay was denied?

HOWELL: Yes, I really was. I Pretty well have gotten to know Judge Matsch. I know that he's very very thorough about everything that he does. When he made his comment today, there's no stay of execution, it kind of shocked me because number one, I didn't figure it would come for another couple of days. And knowing he's about as fair as could possibly be, I figure maybe he would give us another stay. So, I was pretty shocked.

TUCHMAN: It's funny that you are saying that knowing he wants to be as fair as he can possibly be. Are you implying in any way that it's perhaps not fair to do what he did today?

HOWELL: No, it's not that. It's just that he is one of the most -- how would you say -- most lovable men that you could possibly think of, but he's very, very thorough about everything that he does. When he was doing a trial for McVeigh and Nichols, he gave the defense attorneys more leeway than he did the prosecuting attorneys. So, that's the reason why I said that.

TUCHMAN: Paul, let me ask you this: We should point out to our viewers that you are looking now at one of the ten people who won the lottery to watch the execution in person. You are going to be going to Terre Haute perhaps as early as this Monday to watch the execution -- perhaps as early as Sunday to be there in time for Monday. How do you feel about that right now.? It looks like it might be happening, right?

HOWELL: Well, I'm still on what I call a hold. I'm one of these guys it doesn't take me very long to get prepared. I know that we still have two more courts to go through and so I'm not going to get my hopes built up. If they call me on late Thursday night or early Friday morning and tell me that it's still a go, then I will start getting myself prepared at that time.

TUCHMAN: Tell me why you want to watch in person.

HOWELL: Number one, I have not been able to see this guy face to face. I have watch him on TV, I've watched him on closed-circuit. And I'm the type of guy that I need to see what is going on. I'm hoping that if I can see his face maybe I can get some kind of idea exactly who he is and what he thinks.

TUCHMAN: Stare him in the eye?

HOWELL: Yes, sir. Stare him in the eye and I hope he stares me back.

TUCHMAN: Paul Howell, thanks for joining us.

HOWELL: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: Oklahoma City, the city that suffered so much 6 years and 2 months ago, is gearing up for a possible execution this Monday.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: All right Gary Tuchman. Thanks, Gary. Now over to Lou.

WATERS: Let's call upon our CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack. We have a couple of minutes here, Roger, to put a button on this thing. One thing that occurred to me is that we spent a solid two hours here on a ruling by a man in Denver that's affected so many people which brings to you the powerful nature of the court system in our country.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, yes. This is a decision that when you get right down to it was whether or not Timothy McVeigh dies Monday or not. I mean it can't get anymore important and it can't get any more of an effect than that, Lou. And of course we have to remember, you know, none of this would have happened but for that horrible mistakes by the FBI which brought some of this into question. But we can be pleased of course, that Judge Matsch heard it and made his ruling and made a decision and there is speedy justice.

WATERS: I guess, the thing that also struck me today was the surprise among, not only folks like yourself, but among the people in Oklahoma City, to a man and to a woman, they were all surprised that Judge Matsch ruled the way he did today.

COSSACK: I must tell you, you know, this is nothing to laugh about, but it's the part of my job that I must tell you that I really don't enjoy, but I think it's part of my job, which is predicting how the courts are going to turn out.

I was wrong on my decision. I thought my thinking was right, but my decision was wrong. But I think I was in very good company in why I thought the decision was going to go the other way. And I felt that by the mere presence of the negligence if you will by the FBI, that it put the judge in a difficult spot to turn down a request by the defense just to say look, give us another 30 to 60 days merely to see if we can come up with some hard evidence to convince you.

What the Judge did was to say look, you can look at this evidence for ever and ever. But basically the evidence is so overwhelming you will never be able to convenience me. Let's just end it right now.

WATERS: OK, Roger Cossack, who will be answering many more question on "TALKBACK LIVE" which is coming up next. That's it for us. I'm Lou Waters

ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen. See you again tomorrow.



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