convicted murderer Timothy McVeigh.
Timothy McVeigh: Case and Trial
Timothy McVeigh: Case and Trial
This paper presents the facts and findings of the trial and case of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma. The bombing killed 168 people, injured over 600, and maimed several others. McVeigh was caught over an hour later near the Kansas border, brought to trial, and sentenced to death two years later on June 13, 1997.
Key facts and Critical Issues
To this day, the Oklahoma bombing remains the worst act of domestic terrorism in the United States. In fact, McVeigh’s trial was opened by Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler reminding the jury and the attendees of how the bombing had cost the lives of not only adults, but children and infants as well CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006 ).
Unlike most acts of terrorism, the Oklahoma bombing was not meant to make a statement: it was a rebellion by McVeigh against the ‘tyrannous’ government of the United States. The primary question in the case was this: how did a glorified member of the United States army become so hateful of his own government? Additionally, as McVeigh’s lead defense attorney, Stephen Jones, mentioned in his book, Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy, was the bombing really a one-man act, or a cover up for others while implicating only his client, that is, McVeigh CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006 )?
McVeigh’s hate against the government may be rooted partly in his childhood influences and partly in his state after he retired from the army. Being a victim of bullying from a young age, McVeigh compared the classroom to a quintessential federal government which could only be controlled by retaliating. His world consisted of his books, guns, and fringe movements. After his retirement from the army, McVeigh worked dead end jobs with minimum wage. The period after his discharge was when he underwent a complete transformation. Bogged down with taxes and minimum opportunities, he grew increasingly spiteful of the United States’ stand on foreign policy and gun laws. In his March 1992 letter to the Lockport Union-Sun, he even mentioned that America was in decline, and he was afraid that blood would need to be shed to ‘reform’ the system. Ultimately, in January 1993, he turned in his badge at work, packed up his belongings, and set out to visit gun shows across the United States, mingling with former army friends who shared his anti-government views. He even renounced his United States citizenship and started developing and testing homemade bombs in his mobile home CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006 ).
McVeigh stood by his anti-government views even after his arrest. He wanted to present a “necessity defense” to the jury. He wanted to present evidence of apparent “crimes” by the federal government, which, according to him, his bombing had prevented. His attorney, Jones, however, refused to do so. Instead, Jones believed that McVeigh was clearly protecting some co-conspirators, and settled on arguing that his client was a ‘patsy’, that is, a pawn to protect the real masterminds of the crime CITATION Lin062 l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006).
Matters in the trial escalated when, in February 1997, the Dallas Morning News reported that McVeigh has bombed the building at the chosen time of day to increase the body count. Their source was a computer disk provided to them by the defense, which they forgot contained their interviews with McVeigh along with important FBI reports CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006 ).
The trial further mystified when Jones brought to attention an unknown subject, reportedly, “John Doe Number 2”. FBI reports corroborated his presence at the scene of the crime and with McVeigh leading up to the days of. However, he was never identified. Instead, Jones insisted, that the authorities conducted a hasty investigation and honed in on his client with hostility CITATION Gum15 l 1033 (Gumbel, 2015).
Of the 137 witnesses presented by the prosecution, the most important testimonies were those of Michael and Lori Fortier, and Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy’s sister. Michael had been one of the conspirators in the bombing along with McVeigh’s army friend, Terry Nichols. However, he agreed to testify against the two in return for exemption from conspiracy charges, leniency, and the condition that his wife, Lori, would leave the trial spotless CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006 ).
The couple’s testimony ameliorated McVeigh’s role in the bombing, and provided answers so as to how he became the violent rebel against his own government. Lori Fortier described to the jury how McVeigh had laid out fifteen cans in her home to demonstrate the different bombs he was hoping to assemble in his truck. Michael, on the other hand, admitted that McVeigh had shared with him detailed plans of his ploy to bomb the Murrah building, including the date and escape plan CITATION Lin063 t l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006).
It was McVeigh’s sister Jennifer who filled in the gaps in his journey from a member of the military to a convicted domestic terrorist. She attested to his experience with guns and explosives, and confessed to being aware of his anti-government views through a series of letters he had written to her CITATION Lin063 t l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006).
In the end, the defense had no real argument. The evidence strongly pointed to Timothy’s pivotal role in the bombing. The jury deliberated for over twenty three hours, and found him guilty on all counts. After listening to the compelling evidence in the penalty phase, they sentenced him to death CITATION Gum15 l 1033 (Gumbel, 2015).
Forensic investigation’s findings
The bombing was, at first, treated as an act of foreign terrorism by Arab extremists. The discovery of the vehicle identification number for the Ryder truck in which the bomb was carried and detonated, however, compelled authorities to think that the act might have had domestic origins CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder, 2006 ).
The second piece of evidence was the date of the bombing itself. That the act was committed on the second anniversary of the Waco incident in Texas prompted authorities to look for a ‘white male’, with ‘military experience’ and ‘angry with what happened at Ruby Ridge and Waco’. The consequent investigation led the authorities to Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder, 2006 ).
Evidence retrieved from Nichols’s farm, which had been listed as McVeigh’s home address, was convincing enough of his role in the crime. Along with guns and various stolen items, police also found an incriminating amount of ammonium nitrate, a receipt for the purchase of the same, detailed maps of Oklahoma City, Primadet explosive, and a telephone card that McVeigh had used to make calls while looking for the components of the bomb CITATION Lin06 l 1033 (Linder, 2006 ).
Evidence against McVeigh
McVeigh’s demeanor on and after the day of the bombing suggested that he wanted to be caught: over an hour after the bombing, his car was pulled over by a highway patrol officer less than twenty miles away from the Kansas border. McVeigh did not have license and registration for either his car or the weapon he was carrying with him. The vehicle also did not have a license plate number. Thus, he was arrested and placed in the county jail in Perry, Oklahoma, from where authorities retrieved him some time later CITATION Gum15 l 1033 (Gumbel, 2015).
The evidence against him was compelling. Not only had he shared his plans with numerous people, but had also confessed to the bombing. There was no witness to corroborate an alibi, and rental agreements at the motel and truck service conducted in the days preceding the bombing established a direct relationship between him and the blast. Additionally, he was found with a detailed plan of not only Oklahoma City, but the Murrah building as well. The car he was captured at the highway from contained ear plugs apparently used to protect his ears from the sound of the blast CITATION Lin061 l 1033 (Linder D. O., 2006).
Types of explosives: designs and detonation
One of the reasons why experts believe that Timothy and Nichols may have been pawns in a larger plot is the sophistication of the device that McVeigh managed to detonate on April 19, 1995. Experts argue that while two had had experience with explosives in the army, but their knowledge was not nearly enough to build a device as sophisticated and deadly as the bomb used the in the act CITATION Gum15 l 1033 (Gumbel, 2015).
The truck that was used to transport the bomb to the Murrah Building was full of 5000 pounds of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and nitro-methane, a component used in racing cars. This mixture is also known as Kinepak or ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil). Apart from these, the bomb also contained high amounts of commercial explosives Tovex and Primadet CITATION Riv15 l 1033 (Rivero).
The explosive was stored in thirteen plastic barrels in the truck, all of varying colors. While some believe that the bomb was constructed away from Oklahoma, others argue that it would not have been possible to transport such a device under perfect cover. Nine of the thirteen barrels were filled with ANFO, whereas the other four were filled with diesel fuel and fertilizer due to lack of explosives. Tovex and Primadet were used to ‘initiate’ the charge, or set off the bomb, with the help of a time delayed fuse. McVeigh had also stacked extra bags of fertilizer along the driver’s side in the cargo area in order to increase the impact of the bomb, and because there had not been enough fuel to make the bomb he had wanted to CITATION Dou01 l 1033 (Dougherty, 2001).
The information contradicted the federal government’s estimate of the bomb having been built in Kansas. Not only did the excessive amount (over 6200 pounds) of explosive make the bomb highly unstable to be transported over long distances, but it also did not explain why McVeigh did not purchase the required amount of Nitro-Methane when he ran out CITATION Dou01 l 1033 (Dougherty, 2001).
There have also been speculations of a second device that could have been planted inside the building before McVeigh drove the main bomb to the location. However, authorities found no proof of the existence of any such device CITATION Dou01 l 1033 (Dougherty, 2001).
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