Oklahoma's top stories in 2001

Thursday, December 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Even in death, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh dominated the headlines.

McVeigh, who became the first federal prisoner executed in 38 years, was the top Oklahoma news story of 2001 as voted on by the state's AP members.

The Oklahoma State University plane crash, which killed 10 people connected to the university's basketball team, was the No. 2 story. Those killed in the Jan. 27 private plane crash in eastern Colorado included two players, television sports anchor Bill Teegens and seven others.

But McVeigh dominated the first-place voting.

In January, he refused to file an appeal to his death sentence and officials set a May 16 execution date.

There was debate over whether the execution should be public or private and who should be allowed to witness it, and outrage over a book written by two Buffalo, N.Y., reporters after extensive interviews with McVeigh. In it, McVeigh expressed no remorse for the 168 people killed in the bombing, calling the 19 children who died ``collateral damage.''

Just six days before his scheduled May 16 execution, the government released information that the FBI had failed to turn over thousands of documents to McVeigh's attorneys. On May 11, Attorney General John Ashcroft delayed McVeigh's execution until June 11.

On June 6, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who presided over McVeigh's federal trial, rejected McVeigh's request to delay the execution and he was put to death 7:14 a.m., June 11.

The No. 3 story of the year involved the saga of former Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist. Her career began to unravel in March with revelations about major flaws in her forensics work, throwing into question hundreds of cases she worked on.

In September, she was fired for laboratory mismanagement, criticism from court challenges and flawed casework analysis. She has been the subject of federal, state and local investigations including a possible grand jury hearing, but no charges were filed.

Voter approval of a right-to-work measure, which prohibited labor contracts forcing employees to pay union dues, was the No. 4 story.

A record $10 million was spent on the campaign, primarily to finance an advertising blitz containing conflicting statistics on the economic impact of the law. On Sept. 25, Oklahoma became the first state in 15 years to pass a right-to-work law and the 22nd state to have such a law.

The No. 5 story involved state executions. Oklahoma gave lethal injections to 18 people in 2001, more than any other state in the nation.

State officials said the high number of executions, which included three women, resulted from the clearing of a backlog of appellate cases. Death penalty opponents held a series of protests, including one that led to the trespassing arrest of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The fall brought the merger of Conoco Oil and Bartlesville-based Phillips Petroleum, and the decision to locate the headquarters of the combined company in Houston. This was story No. 6.

Phillips is the state's largest publicly held company and one of only four Oklahoma corporations on the Fortune 500, a ranking of public companies with the most revenue.

The No. 7 story involved winter ice storms that led to a spate of fatal traffic accidents and power outages as well as property damage.

No. 8 was the dedication of a museum at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. President George W. Bush was among those who spoke at the event.

Gov. Frank Keating's hopes of being named to Bush's cabinet evaporated after stories broke about the governor's lobbying effort to promote the drug Dilantin on behalf of retired New York financier Jack Dreyfus, who in turn gave Keating's family $250,000. This was story No. 9.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast led to a mobilization of some National Guard troops in the state. This tied for No. 10, along with stories about public fears that anthrax might sicken people in Oklahoma. No anthrax cases were reported in the state.

The University of Oklahoma's national championship season was ranked by members as the top state story of 2000.