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FBI Admits to Withholding 3,000-Plus Pages of Documents Relevant to McVeigh Case

Aired May 11, 2001 - 10:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Back now to out top story this morning, the pending execution of Timothy McVeigh for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City, and this revelation that the FBI had withheld some 3,100 pages of documents from the prosecution and the defense in this case. And if McVeigh does, because of that, decide to seek a stay of execution, his case would wind up before a federal judge in Denver.

CNN's Gina London is in Denver this morning, and she's got an overview of the legal process for us -- Gina.

GINA LONDON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Leon.

That's right, the building you see behind me is the one in which Federal Judge Richard Matsch presided over the original trial. If there is stay of execution motion filed, then it is, as you mentioned, very likely it's going to come right back here into this federal courtroom.

We have heard from the chambers, the court itself, saying that they are on notice that this could happen -- that they have not received anything, and no files are pending -- but they are very much on notice.

As mentioned earlier, it is a possibility, however, that the Department of Justice, the federal government, could ask for the stay of execution, and it wouldn't come from Nathan Chambers, the defense attorney for McVeigh, who has now got those 3,000 pages of documents in front of him in his office. He says he's going to be poring over it throughout the weekend.

In the meantime, a former prosecutor, Patrick Ryan, in the McVeigh case says that this was news to them as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK RYAN, FORMER MCVEIGH PROSECUTOR: It's very unfortunate. One of the things that has been said over and over again since yesterday afternoon is that the government failed to turn these materials over to the defense, and the point has not been made that the FBI didn't turn these materials over to the prosecution, either. These are not materials that we're familiar with either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Again, of course, Tim McVeigh, the convicted bomber in Oklahoma City, is waiting in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is dependent upon his input and his approval, Leon, on whether or not there may be that motion filed. The attorneys here in Denver say that they are conferring with him, and that he is a very studious person. He likes to be very thorough and go over things in detail, so they are conferring with him again today about what their next move may be.

Again, we are hearing from Nathan Chambers, here in Denver, that if there is a motion filed, the soonest it may come is Monday. The clerk's office opens here in the courts at 8:00 a.m. Mountain time, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

Reporting live in Denver, Gina London -- back to you -- Leon.

HARRIS: Thanks, Gina -- we'll talk with you later on.

Let's talk with our Keith Oppenheim, as we change our focus from the legal issues to the execution that actually may be in limbo. Keith is outside the federal penitentiary where Tim McVeigh sits on death row right now -- Keith.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of points. First of all, there's going to be a likely meeting between McVeigh and his attorneys. A couple of them are in town. So we do expect that that decision-making process that Timothy McVeigh could go through, which Gina London was referring to, could begin as he sits down with his attorneys inside the U.S. penitentiary here in Terre Haute. I did talk to prison officials about that, and they said that while the time of any prisoner on death row is extremely controlled, that they will be fairly liberal about the amount of time that Timothy McVeigh can spend with his attorneys.

In terms of preparation for Wednesday's scheduled execution, it's really hard to exaggerate how much has gone into this. If you take a little tour down the road, you'll see there is one area that's cordoned off for pro-death penalty protesters and another one next to it for anti-death penalty protesters. A little further down the road, you'll see an entire camp and trailers for the media. And on Wednesday, as just another example, public schools are scheduled to be closed, just so that there is no interference with school buses or any problems, because this is going to bring a lot of people into Terre Haute.

The warden of this federal penitentiary -- Harley Lappin -- and other staff here have attended four other executions just to prepare for what is to be the first federal execution since 1963.

Now, it's also important to note that changes at the last minute are common to any execution, whether it be at the state level or the federal level. But this is certainly probably adding another level of apprehension to the federal officials here, who want to make sure that everything goes right -- Leon. HARRIS: Keith, I'm curious. You say the warden told you that he went to four other executions as rehearsal for this. Can you tell what he told you he went there to see or to learn?

OPPENHEIM: I didn't speak to Harley Lappin about that personally. I talked to prison staff here. But the point of going to these other executions, Leon, was just to observe. Keep in mind that while they know how to do it -- they know the mix of chemicals, and have staff who are well trained and well rehearsed by going through procedures here -- it's also helpful, in terms of what they have in front of them to do, to go to witness other executions and get the full sense of details that go into them.

HARRIS: Interesting. Thanks so much. We appreciate that, Keith Oppenheim, reporting live this morning, from Terre Haute, Indiana.

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