McVeigh says execution should be broadcast publicly

Sunday, February 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh says he is not opposed to a closed-circuit telecast of his execution and that officials should even allow a public broadcast of it, according to a copyright story.

In a 450-word letter published in The Sunday Oklahoman, McVeigh questioned the fairness of limiting the number of witnesses to his scheduled May 16 execution.

``Because the closed-circuit telecast of my execution raises these fundamental equal access concerns, and because I am otherwise not opposed to such a telecast, a reasonable solution seems obvious: hold a true public execution _ allow a public broadcast,'' he wrote in the two-page letter.

McVeigh, 32, is set to be executed by injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., for his role in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The bombing killed 168 people and injured 500.

McVeigh's attorney, Rob Nigh Jr., of Tulsa, confirmed that McVeigh wrote the letter and that his client is serious about publicly broadcasting his execution.

``He is in favor of public scrutiny of government action, including his execution,'' Nigh told the newspaper.

About 250 people who survived or lost family members in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building have asked to see McVeigh's execution, but only eight seats are available for personal witnesses. Several bombing survivors and victims' family members are pushing for a closed-circuit broadcast of the execution.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is considering such a broadcast, either in Oklahoma City or at the Indiana prison.

Closed-circuit television has been a part of McVeigh's legal process from the start. His Denver trial was shown to bombing victims at an auditorium in Oklahoma City.

A national broadcast is not an option, bureau spokesman Dan Dunne said.

``It hasn't been considered. It won't happen,'' Dunne said.

In McVeigh's Feb. 1 handwritten letter, he wondered who would be considered for watching his execution.

``It has ... been said that all of Oklahoma was a victim of the bombing. Can all of Oklahoma watch?'' he wrote.

He also complained in the letter about the limits put on his witness list. McVeigh can have six witnesses, including one spiritual adviser, two lawyers and three adult relatives or friends.

``What about proportional fairness to the defendant?'' he wrote. ``Should the inmate not be allowed to have additional spiritual advisors, attorneys, and/or family, friends view his death?''

McVeigh would be the first federal inmate executed since 1963. He dropped all of his appeals in January and has until Friday to seek clemency from President Bush.

The idea of televising executions is not new.

In 1994, former talk-show host Phil Donahue tried to get permission to televise the execution of murderer David Lawson in North Carolina, but was denied by the North Carolina Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also in 1994, an Ohio judge was criticized for sentencing a killer to death and calling for the execution to be televised.

An execution in Guatemala was televised last year.

Several states, including Oklahoma, have allowed relatives of murder victims to watch executions on closed-circuit television.

McVeigh will not make a legal push for a public execution, but Nigh said he supports the idea.

``If it is our collective judgment that capital punishment is a reasonable response to crime, we need to come to grips with what it actually is,'' he said.