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PROTESTERS, victim family members and Terre Haute await McVeigh decision

Updated:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ There's less than a week to go before the scheduled execution of one of America's most notorious criminals, but with Timothy McVeigh's fate pending in a Denver courtroom, there's a distinct lack of fervor.

Reporters have yet to flock to the federal prison in Terre Haute. Death penalty protesters haven't rolled in to organize. Family members of Oklahoma City bombing victims wait for what many assume will be another delay.

The recent developments that halted McVeigh's May 16 execution will come to a head Wednesday when a Denver judge considers McVeigh's request for a stay based on previously uncovered FBI documents. It's not clear how soon U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch will rule.

``There's been so dang many delays for the last six years on the trial, we've become pretty patient with these things,'' said Paul Howell, whose 27-year-old daughter was one of 168 who died in the 1995 explosion.

``I've tried to teach my body, don't get prepared for anything too much until a day or two before it's supposed to happen.''

Prison officials in Terre Haute don't have that luxury. They continue to follow U.S. Bureau of Prisons protocol in preparing for a lethal injection, including making sure that McVeigh has turned in his request for a last meal and prepared any final written statement he wants issued.

``We keep going until we have something from the Department of Justice or the judge,'' said Jim Cross, executive assistant at the U.S. Penitentiary.

But he admits the buzz hasn't been like it was in the days before McVeigh's original execution date, when most were certain he would become the first federal prisoner executed since 1963.

At that time, the first wave of what was expected to be about 1,400 journalist had already arrived. State, county and federal offices in Terre Haute all had announced they would be closed on execution day. Restaurants were staffing extra people to handle the load.

Jon Marvel, chief deputy of the Vigo County Sheriff's Department, said everything is different this time around.

``I believe that everybody feels that this execution won't go as scheduled,'' he said. ``We've taken a stand down, and we're just waiting to see what the judge says.''

Death penalty protesters also are taking a ``wait-and-see'' approach.

``We expect the government to be the government, and therefore not have this stay,'' said Abe Bonowitz, director of the national group Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. ``At the same time, anybody that looks at it, and looks at it as a matter of law and due process, would expect there will be a stay.''

He said that if the execution goes on as scheduled, he and his fellow activists will stick to the same plans for marches and demonstrations that were mapped out in May before the first delay. But few are anticipating they'll have to roll into action this weekend.

Howell, one of the victims' family members selected to view the execution, said he'll understand if the new FBI documents keep him from going to Terre Haute next Monday. But he's not worried about the impact those documents will have in the long run.

``I don't think it's going to affect the McVeigh execution in any way,'' Howell said. ``But I'm not priming myself up too doggone much for the June 11 date.''

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