Bombing victims' relatives hopeful Ashcroft will allow closed-circuit viewing

Wednesday, April 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City bombing survivors have told U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft they want to see Timothy McVeigh's execution on closed-circuit television. Now all they can do is wait.

Ashcroft said he would announce by the end of the week whether survivors can watch McVeigh die by injection May 16. Survivors came away from a Tuesday meeting with Ashcroft hopeful that he would grant their requests.

They want Ashcroft to allow closed-circuit feeds in Oklahoma City and the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Jannie Coverdale, whose two grandsons were killed, said she thought Ashcroft was leaning toward having a telecast at one location and she said it would be better to have it in Oklahoma City.

``I really think we will get closed-circuit TV,'' she said. ``I want to see the end of Timothy McVeigh. I don't think it's hatred. I'm tired of being angry. I'm tired of crying.''

Tom Kight, who lost his daughter, Frankie Merrell, said many families are expecting a certain finality after watching the execution. Recent media attention about a new book on McVeigh, next week's sixth anniversary of the bombing and the execution have been rough on families, he said.

``We're tired of Tim McVeigh,'' he said. ``It's time to put him to rest.''

Darlene Welch said she hopes people won't criticize victims' families for wanting to watch McVeigh take his last breath.

``Believe me, if we were seeking vengeance these men would be dead already,'' said Welch, whose 4-year-old niece Ashley Eckles was one of 19 children who died in the blast. ``They would not have lived more than one day. These families would have executed them ourselves. But that's not what we're after. We just want justice.''

About 250 survivors and victims' relatives have said they want to watch McVeigh, 32, die for the April 19, 1995, bombing, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. About 100 bombing victims' relatives and survivors attending Tuesday's 75-minute meeting.

Several said they hope McVeigh is not allowed to give any media interviews on the day of his death. And some suggested the attorney general give all but two of the 15 execution seats designated for the media to family members.

Ashcroft said he would try to limit McVeigh's ability to reach the public.

``I am not interested in providing any additional tools to an individual who wants to disrespect this culture,'' he said outside the Oklahoma City National Memorial, receiving an ovation from victims' families. ``I do not believe that we should in any way provide a basis for promoting the kind of destructive, offensive character of activity that this terrorist act represents.''

Ashcroft toured the memorial before speaking near a tree that was damaged but survived the bombing.

``I am once again shocked by what happened in this place,'' he said.

He said the damaged tree shows that it is possible to overcome disaster.

``The wounds will never completely heal, yet it continues to grow,'' he said. ``Freedom survived that disaster.

``This tragedy reminds us that our freedoms are both fragile and sacred. Our freedoms must be both safeguarded and when assaulted they must be restored.''