FBI insists new evidence does not undermine confidence in verdict

Saturday, June 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Timothy McVeigh confessed to the Oklahoma City bombing. His attorneys admit they have no new evidence to prove his innocence. And they are relying on a 57-year-old patent fraud case in seeking a delay of his execution.

Attorneys for McVeigh face a hearing Wednesday in which they will argue that his lethal injection, scheduled just five days later, should be put on hold.

Legal analysts say they believe U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch will grant a delay, but say his chances of winning a new trial or sentencing hearing are slim.

They also emphasize that McVeigh is not specifically asking for either one _ just a hearing to force the government to show why it has not produced all the investigative documents in the case so they can see if there are grounds for another appeal.

``I suppose their strategy is the passage of time. That can only help McVeigh because every week there are new revelations,'' said Andrew Cohen, a legal analyst who covered McVeigh's 1997 trial.

In early May, the Justice Department admitted it found thousands of documents related to the 1995 bombing that had not been given to attorneys for McVeigh or co-conspirator Terry Nichols. Nearly 4,500 pages and 11 CDs of material have been turned over so far.

Attorney General John Ashcroft postponed McVeigh's May 16 execution and admitted mistakes had been made. But he said nothing in the documents proves McVeigh's innocence and indicated there will be no further delays.

McVeigh received permission from Matsch in January to halt his appeals. By law, he would have to obtain permission from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to get another chance.

His request for a stay is based on a 1944 case in which a glass company misrepresented a report in a patent application. A rival sued and the U.S. Supreme Court set a precedent in ruling it was an attempt to defraud the court.

McVeigh's attorneys are using the case to argue that federal prosecutors defrauded the court by falsely claiming all documents had been turned over before trial.

``It's creativity born of desperation because of the few options he has left,'' Cohen said.

McVeigh was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for the bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. He admitted his guilt in a book released in April, but his attorneys say such views were never aired by McVeigh during his trial or appeals and cannot be used against him.

Prosecutor Sean Connelly and McVeigh's attorney, Nathan Chambers, declined to comment Friday on preparations for next week's hearing.

But in a letter sent to attorneys for McVeigh and Nichols, Connelly said the newly discovered evidence included reports like a 23-page handwritten letter to then-Attorney General Janet Reno with an offer to provide information on a mysterious man reportedly seen with McVeigh before the bombing.

The author asked in return a $1 billion reward, release of his fiance from jail and a London visit with the Prince of Wales.

There also were more than 60 pages from an inmate who wrote a letter after the bombing claiming ``my people do good work.'' The inmate was serving time for mailing a mutilated pig carcass to police.

Scott Robinson, a defense attorney who monitored McVeigh's trial in Denver four years ago, said the defense will have a tough time proving federal prosecutors knowingly presented false evidence or intentionally withheld documents they knew could have helped McVeigh.

``That's an enormous burden. A simple mistake would never suffice,'' Robinson said.