McVeigh Asks for Public Execution

O K L A H O M A   C I T Y, Feb. 11, 2001 -- Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh wrote in a published letter that his execution should be broadcast publicly.

In a letter published in The Sunday Oklahoman, McVeigh questioned the fairness of limiting the number of witnesses to his execution. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is considering a closed-circuit broadcast to accommodate survivors and relatives of victims.

"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.

McVeigh, 32, is set to be executed May 16 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., confirmed that McVeigh wrote the letter and is serious about 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 bombing have asked to see McVeigh's execution, but only eight seats are available for witnesses on behalf of victims.

Not an Option

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

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

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.

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.

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

The idea of televising executions is not new in the United States. Several states, including Oklahoma, have allowed relatives of murder victims to watch executions on closed-circuit television.

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

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.