Ashcroft defends closed-circuit broadcast of McVeigh's execution

Saturday, April 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Attorney General John Ashcroft on Friday defended his decision to allow a closed-circuit broadcast of the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Ashcroft, in Kansas City to meet with business leaders and local Justice Department officials, said that he was not concerned that the broadcast would set a precedent for future federal executions.

``It's a unique event,'' Ashcroft said. ``It's the single largest act of terrorism in the history of the United States. One-hundred-and-sixty-eight individuals died and 30 children were totally orphaned. ... Hundreds of additional people were wounded.''

McVeigh is scheduled to be executed May 16 at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. About 285 people have said they want to view the execution. The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would be shown on a closed-circuit broadcast at a federal prison facility in Oklahoma City.

``The procedures that I have outlined are designed to make it possible for some of these very wounded families to have a sense of closure to this case,'' Ashcroft said.

He said he does not want executions to provide killers with speaking platforms.

``We don't allow murderers to buy access to the public podium with the blood of hundreds of innocent Americans,'' he said. ``I think it's important that we not provide individuals who are on death row with an opportunity to reach the podium of America that they would not otherwise reach.''

Ashcroft also said that he and President Bush have not set a definite timetable for appointing new U.S. attorneys.

``When the Clinton administration went into office in 1992, there was a mass firing ... of all U.S. attorneys,'' Ashcroft said. ``I conferred with the President of the United States and we believe that was not an appropriate way to make a transition between one administration and the next, so we agreed that justice would be the priority and not politics.''

Ashcroft said the Bush administration has been making changes and accepting resignations on a district-by-district basis.

``There are certain cases where health needs of individuals need to be respected, and there are some cases where there were prosecutions which were ongoing that could not sustain the interruption, and those have been respected,'' he said. ``But I think it's fair to say that by summertime the overwhelming majority of the offices will have transitioned toward the new appointments.''