McVeigh Remains Enigmatic
After Death Sentence
By Adrian Croft

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh remained as enigmatic as ever despite being sentenced to death for the worst mass murder in American history.

Survivors and relatives of bomb victims expressed relief on Friday when a jury in Denver handed McVeigh a death sentence for the April 19, 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 168 people.

The same jury had found the 29-year-old Gulf War veteran guilty on June 2 of 11 first-degree murder, conspiracy and explosives charges.

But for many relatives, relief was tempered with sorrow at seeing a man sent to his death. Some also felt compassion for McVeigh's grief-stricken parents who now must go through the same pain they did when they lost loved ones in the bombing.

"It was a release of the weight that has been on my shoulders for two years. It was a feeling of joy - then sadness started taking over," said Dan McKinney, whose wife Linda died in the bombing.

"We're pleased that the system worked and that justice prevailed. But the verdict doesn't diminish the great sadness that occurred in Oklahoma City two years ago," chief prosecutor Joe Hartzler said as he left the Denver courthouse.

"The jury has spoken ... We ask that the barriers and intolerance which have divided us may crumble, that suspicions disappear, and that hatreds cease ...," chief defense lawyer Stephen Jones told reporters after the jury rejected his plea to spare McVeigh's life.

The man at the center of the storm remained outwardly calm as the jury of seven men and five women reached their verdict after deliberating for 11 hours. The verdict was read to the packed courtroom by federal Judge Richard Matsch, who will formally pronounce sentence at a later hearing.

McVeigh sat still and expressionless, as he has throughout the seven-week trial. As he left the courtroom, McVeigh looked at his heart-broken parents and appeared to mouth the words: "It's all right."

McVeigh's sister, Jennifer, who testified against him under a grant of immunity from prosecution, cried. His divorced parents sat motionless.

"Who knows? Who can explain that guy? I can't," Ralph Duke, whose daughter Claudette Meek was killed in the bombing, said when asked about McVeigh's demeanor.

McVeigh, who had pleaded not guilty, did not testify during his trial. He betrayed scarcely any emotion during even the most painful testimony and showed no sign of remorse.

Denver trial attorney Scott Robinson, who closely followed the trial, believed McVeigh saw himself as a martyr and as a "good soldier -- name, rank and serial number only."

The defense suggested that McVeigh was motivated by anger at the deaths of 80 Branch Davidian cult members in a confrontation with federal agents at Waco, Texas exactly two years before the bombing.

Terry Nichols, who is accused of helping McVeigh carry out the bombing, is due to be tried separately later, but McVeigh's lawyers say other unidentified people may have been involved. Jones told jurors on Thursday that if they sentenced McVeigh to death, the full truth about the bombing may never be known.

In Oklahoma City, families of bomb victims applauded the death sentence and said they hoped the anti-government paranoia that inspired the attack would die with McVeigh.

Dozens of people gathered at the downtown Oklahoma City site where the federal building used to stand. Many applauded briefly as news came through that McVeigh had been sentenced to death in a courtroom 600 miles away in Denver.

There was little of the joy seen there last week when the Denver jury found McVeigh guilty of the attack.

"You don't want to celebrate somebody else's death," said Catherine Alaniz, whose father Claude Medearis was killed in the blast. "But my dad didn't have a choice to live or die and I don't think McVeigh should either. We got the verdict that we deserved."

While some survivors and family members wanted McVeigh sentenced to life in prison without parole, the vast majority had called for the death penalty.

McVeigh's death sentence drew a relieved, but muted reaction across the United States.

President Clinton thanked the jury for its efforts. "This investigation and trial have confirmed our country's faith in its justice system," Clinton said.

In a country where prisoners on death row sometimes languish for a decade or more, McVeigh may be put to death relatively quickly, legal experts said.

They said McVeigh's death by lethal injection could come within a few years, depending on the length of the appeals process that automatically kicks in.

McVeigh joins 13 other prisoners who have been sentenced to die for federal crimes, mostly drug-related offenses. Throughout the country there are about 3,200 prisoners on death row who have been sentenced to die for state crimes.

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