A galling decision

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2001

The following editorial appeared in Friday's Los Angeles Times:

Timothy McVeigh has decided he's in no rush to die after all. Scheduled for execution June 11 for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and maimed scores of others, McVeigh now seeks a delay and a new hearing, based on the claim that federal investigators committed a "fraud upon the court.' He is within his rights to do so, and those rights must be respected. The integrity of our judicial system demands it.

For McVeigh to shield himself with the Constitution is, of course, galling. Last December he waived his rights to any further legal appeals. After his conviction he admitted his guilt and refused to express any remorse for the lives he took. His effort now to prolong his life and reopen the case will outrage many, and not only those directly affected by the worst terrorist incident in American history.

But justice can't be rushed. Last month the FBI revealed it had failed to turn over to McVeigh's defense team, as it was required to do, about 4,000 documents produced by its investigation of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. His lawyers have now had a chance to review those documents. One attorney claims other papers critical to the defense case are still being withheld -- and the defense raises the inflammatory question of whether the government could be hiding evidence that others were involved in the bombing. Had all the information been available, McVeigh's lawyers suggest, the jury might not have imposed the death penalty. McVeigh, in a letter to a Houston paper, insists he acted alone. No credible evidence has been produced to cast doubt on that claim.

Still, the lunatic fringe is eager to make McVeigh a martyr. The government, by assuring that the terrorist receives every one of his constitutional rights, will help to undermine the repulsive notion that McVeigh is something more than a mass murderer.

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