Pope Urges Clemency for McVeigh

ByABC News
April 27, 2001, 8:46 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, April 27 -- Pope John Paul II has asked President Bush tospare the life of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who isscheduled to be executed on May 16.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said that a letter fromJohn Paul requesting clemency was received this week. She would notreveal the details of the letter.

Legal scholars said it appeared Bush had no way to intervene inthe execution even if he were inclined to.

McVeigh allowed a Feb. 16 deadline to pass without filing arequest for clemency. After that the execution date was set. Underfederal rules, McVeigh had one month after his execution date wasset to ask the president for consideration.

Buchan said Bush believes McVeigh has been treated fairly.

"The president has great respect for the pope and this is atragic situation. The president also has deep compassion andsympathy for the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and theirfamilies," Buchan said.

"While a clemency decision is not before the president, asgovernor of Texas, he asked two questions : one, was there anydoubt about the guilt or innocence of the person? and two, did theyhave full access to the judicial system? In this instance, there isno doubt and Mr. McVeigh has had full access to the courts."

Catholic officials in Washington and in Vatican City did not immediatelyreturn telephone calls for comment.

Pope Protocol

McVeigh, 33, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection inTerre Haute, Ind., for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah FederalBuilding in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people, 19 of themchildren.

John Paul regularly asks for clemency for death row inmateswhose time is running out. In speeches, he has made severalpronouncements against the death penalty.

"I hope still that we reach the point where capital punishmentis renounced, given that nations today have other means ofefficiently repressing crime without definitely taking away thepossibility of self-redemption," he said in a recent speech.