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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 23:34 GMT 00:34 UK
McVeigh's on-off date with death
Execution chamber at Terre Haute prison, Indiana
It would be the first federal execution since 1963
By Tom Carver in Washington

At Terre Haute federal prison in Indiana, Timothy McVeigh spent the last month preparing for his death.

Reports from inside the prison suggested he'd cut down on his meals and his exercise, and stopped ordering books from the prison library.


Judge Matsch may be sympathetic to the defence's request

Now, he has asked for a stay in execution because, his lawyers say, he wants to preserve the integrity of America's judicial process.

It's a rich irony that the man who wanted to destroy what he regarded as a corrupt establishment by blowing up the government building in Oklahoma is now casting himself as a judicial watchdog.

But he didn't choose this new role - he has the FBI to thank for that.

The FBI has admitted to failing to hand over 4,000 pages of documents to the defence team.

Matter of principle

The Department of Justice, which is fiercely opposing any delay to next week's scheduled execution, says there is nothing in these papers which would have changed the outcome of the trial.

They may be right. Some of the documents were offers by psychics to help the FBI solve the case.

Timothy McVeigh
McVeigh had prepared to die
One man apparently offered unspecified information in return for a trip to Europe to meet some royalty.

Even the defence team admits that most of the papers are irrelevant, but it's the principle that counts, they say.

And besides, McVeigh's lawyers believe that the FBI has still not released everything in its possession.

It is certainly a massive embarrassment for the FBI, but it suggests incompetence rather than conspiracy.

And for the people of Oklahoma, especially those who lost family in the bombing, it only prolongs the pain.

Trial judge decides

It'll be up to Judge Richard Matsch, who conducted the original trial in 1997, to decide whether to grant a stay of execution whilst the whole matter is investigated more thoroughly.

As it was he who originally ordered the FBI to turn over its findings to the defence, he may be sympathetic to the defence's request.

Timothy McVeigh has being ordering books again from the prison library in recent days.

He may have some time on his hands.

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See also:

29 May 01 | Americas
McVeigh stay of execution sought
22 May 01 | Americas
McVeigh's legal team beefed up
16 May 01 | Americas
FBI admits McVeigh blunder
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