Defense Opening Statement

From defense lawyer Stephen Jones' opening statement:

I have waited two years for this moment to outline the evidence to you that the government will produce, that I will produce, both by direct and cross-examination, by exhibits, photographs, transcripts of telephone conversations, transcripts of conversations inside houses, videotapes, that will establish not a reasonable doubt but that my client is innocent of the crime that Mr. Hartzler has outlined to you.

It was a spring day in Oklahoma City. And inside the office of the Social Security Administration located in the Alfred P. Murrah Building, named after a distinguished chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, a young black woman named Dana Bradley was feeling the atmosphere a little stuffy and warm; so she left her mother, her two children, and her sister in line and she wandered out into the lobby of the Alfred P. Murrah Building. And as she was looking out the plate glass window, a Ryder truck slowly pulled into a parking place and stopped. She didn't give it any particular attention until the door opened on the passenger side, and she saw a man get out.

Approximately three weeks later, she described the man to the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, as indeed she did to us and to others, as short, stocky, olive-complected, wearing a puffy jacket, with black hair, a description that does not match my client. She did not see anyone else.

She saw this individual pause briefly, walk to what she thought might be the back of the truck, and walk away.

She turned around and went back in the Social Security office; and then in just a matter of moments, the explosion occurred. It took the life of her mother and her two children and horribly burned her sister. She is not a witness for the defense.

And that night, approximately 12 hours later, almost to the minute, somewhere between 50 and 100 million people throughout the world, courtesy of CNN, watched physicians crawl through the rubble of the Murrah Building and amputate this woman's life, this woman's leg, in order that her life might be saved and she could be extricated from the rubble.

Mr. McVeigh's motives as described by the government in Mr. Hartzler's opening address are that he is anti-government; that he has a hatred for the United States, and that he conspired with others to build a terrible explosive device which he initiated because he was angry at the government of the United States.

Mr. Hartzler has told you that the government's evidence will consist of, among other things, a shirt that Mr. McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested and that in his car he had all this patriot literature — it was, after all, incidentally, Patriots' Day, as Mr. Hartzler said — quotations from John Locke, Patrick Henry; but on this shirt, he had sic semper tyrannis, the words spoken by John Wilkes Booth when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln in Ford's theater. And the government suggests to you that as an expression of his motive.

Well, sic semper tyrannis is also the official slogan of the state of Virginia and had been for almost 100 years before John Wilkes Booth appropriated it. And it was chosen by three men: George Mason, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a member of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. He authored several amendments to the Constitution which were later adopted.

Another person who designed that slogan and adopted it was the famous general Richard Henry Lee of the American Revolutionary Army, who signed the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia and introduced the famous resolution of June 7, 1776, which called for the dissolutionment (sic) of ties between the United States and Great Britain; and he proposed the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted, and later served as a United States senator from Virginia.

The third person who participated in the selection was George Wythe, who signed the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate to the continental Congress.

So sic semper tyrannis is not the exclusive property of John Wilkes Booth. It has a meaning in the historical conservative community of people who follow the revolutionary rule and its antecedents, has really nothing to do only with John Wilkes Booth; likewise with the statement that Mr. McVeigh made to his sister that something big is going to happen.

There is no question that the evidence will show that Mr. McVeigh was a political animal. He studied history, the Constitution, the amendments to the Constitution. He carried them on his person. He carried them in his car, he carried them in his briefcase, and they were stacked in his house and he laid them out on tables at gun shows. There isn't any dispute about that.

Likewise, he was extremely upset with the subject of government abuse. Among the collection of literature, including that found in his car at the time of his arrest on Patriots' Day were John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, quotations from Thomas Jefferson, quotations from Winston Churchill and the Declaration of Independence.

Tim McVeigh, along with his sister and his friends, wrote letters to newspapers. They voted. His politics were open and known to everyone that spent any time with him. There was no secret about the politics that Tim McVeigh had.

And part of those politics had to do with the events, as Mr. Hartzler has described them, at Waco and Ruby Ridge.

Our proof will be that Tim McVeigh believed that the federal government executed 76 people at Waco, including 30 women and 25 children. That was his political belief. He was not alone in that opinion.

He believed that the federal law enforcement at Waco deployed in a military fashion against American citizens and children who had committed no crime and that the Branch Davidians were not a cult who lived in a compound. He believed that they were what they were, a breakoff of the Seventh Day Adventist church who had lived at Mount Carmel since the 1930's.

He believed that the federal government undertook a course of action including the use of tanks and CS gas and other military weapons against the Branch Davidians which was certain to result in their death. He believed that federal agents fired upon the Davidians as they attempted to escape the fire. He believed that these actions and cover-up of these actions, as he saw it, pointed to a federal government out of control; and he made no secret about it. He was at Waco. There is a videotape of Tim McVeigh which you will see in evidence in a flannel shirt sitting on top of his car, talking to a television reporter. And on the top of the car are bumper stickers that he is selling or giving away which describe his political beliefs.

He believed that the government manipulated the press at Waco and that the words "cult" and "compound" were used to hide what was really going on.

He was not alone in those beliefs. When the federal jury at San Antonio acquitted the Branch Davidians of murder, he saw that as validation; and when the Congress of the United States last year issued its report on Waco, he saw that as validation.

He was also concerned about Ruby Ridge, where Marshal Deacon, much celebrated member of the United States Marshal's Service, was killed. He believed there that the ATF had entrapped Randy Weaver into committing a crime by sawing off a small portion of a shotgun just below the line to make it illegal so that they could then pressure Weaver into being an informant for the ATF in the community in northern Idaho 20 miles from the Canadian border that Weaver had moved his family to, to live life as he wanted.

And he believed that an FBI sniper, who was also at Waco, shot and killed Randy Weaver's wife as she was holding her daughter and that they shot and killed a ten-year-old boy, Sammy, as he was running towards the house. And the jury on Ruby Ridge acquitted Randy Weaver of murder.

So his views weren't alone, and they certainly were not secret.