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Timothy McVeigh's Attorney Talks to Reporters

Aired May 11, 2001 - 16:12   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.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We see now Nathan Chambers, one of Mr. McVeigh's other lawyers, who is also speaking elsewhere in Denver. Let's listen to him.

NATHAN CHAMBERS, MCVEIGH'S ATTORNEY: ... cannot be guaranteed. Now we see yet again that the agency that holds itself out as the premier law enforcement agency in the world is incapable of conducting an investigation in a manner that instills trust and confidence.

In light of Attorney General Ashcroft's announcement today, postponing Mr. McVeigh's execution, the issue of whether or not the defense will seek a stay has become moot. General Ashcroft's decision is an attempt to restore faith and confidence in the criminal justice process.

Regardless of the content of materials recently released, the most recent episode demonstrates in dramatic fashion why trust and confidence should be reserved.

At this time, we intend to continue with our review and analysis of the documents just provided. Mr. McVeigh intends to consider all of the legal options that might be available to him, and will make a decision as to how he wants to proceed, when he can do so based on a more complete understanding of his circumstances.

If anybody has questions, I will stay here for a little while.

QUESTION: You say that Mr. McVeigh is considering all of his legal options, and yet, he could have pursued a full host of legal options a while ago. He decided not to pursue any appeals. Why would he suddenly decide to appeal based on this new information?

CHAMBERS: Well, there are a number of legal options that may be available to him at this point. I don't really want to get into a discussion of what those legal options may be. Our thought in that is a work in progress, and Mr. McVeigh is not fully informed.

The only thing I can say in response to your question is, I'm sure that the considerations that entered into Mr. McVeigh's decision- making in the past, will affect his decision-making in the future. But, that being said, there is a new constellation of circumstances today that didn't exist before, and he will make his decision based upon the circumstances as they exist now.

QUESTION: You are going to try and convince him, basically?

CHAMBERS: I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to say to him. My conversations with Mr. McVeigh are going to be private, and they will stay that way.

QUESTION: Can you tell us at all about his reactions to this?

CHAMBERS: No, I really can't. I did not meet with Mr. McVeigh today. My co-counsel, Mr. Nigh, has been in Terre Haute and met with Mr. McVeigh for an extended period today, had lengthy discussion with him. Those conversations and Mr. McVeigh's reaction are confidential.

The only thing I can tell you at this point about Mr. McVeigh's reaction, his state of mind, is that he is aware of the circumstances, as much as he can be at this point, and that he will consider all his options, and he wants to make an informed decision.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about how you were first informed by the prosecutors about this on Tuesday? There was a phone call. What was that phone call like, if you can, and explain how you came to know this information and how you passed it along to your client?

CHAMBERS: Received a phone call from a United States attorney on Tuesday, informing me that there were documents, FBI documents, that had heretofore been undisclosed, and that we would be getting them in short order. That was on Tuesday. We expected, actually, to get them on Wednesday, we did not actually receive them until Thursday morning.

I don't want to go into any detail of my conversations with the United States attorney. Those are conversations I had with him, and I'm sure he didn't expect me to come out and then repeat to you all what he said to me. In terms of my conversation with Mr. McVeigh, I'm obviously not going into the specifics, I simply advised him of the circumstances.

QUESTION: In light of what the attorney general said today about how the material was passed on to him with assurances from Justice Department officials that there was nothing exculpatory in them. It sounded fairly blase. Are you convinced that they have the time to review everything with enough finality to be assured that there wouldn't be something that would be of probative value to you?

CHAMBERS: Well, they have had the documents for six years, I think that is probably sufficient time.

QUESTION: How long do you expect it to take you to review...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE).

CHAMBERS: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE).

CHAMBERS: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about...

QUESTION: How long do you expect that to take?

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about them so far?

CHAMBERS: No, I can't -- I'm not going to at this point get into a discussion of the substance of the documents, because I have really only scratched the surface.

And I might add as an aside, there is a long-standing order in place in the criminal case against Mr. McVeigh which prohibits public discussion of discovery materials. Now, I think there may be a question as to whether or not that order is still in effect, but I don't want to risk incurring Judge Matsch's anger by discussing a subject that may be off limits.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE).

CHAMBERS: The question was what was my client's reaction to Attorney General Ashcroft's decision. Robert, I'm not going to discuss my client's reaction to anything, I'm just going to tell you what I told so you, that he's informed and he wants to make a decision when he has more knowledge.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) documents themselves are irrelevant because of confession of guilt. Can you comment on that?

CHAMBERS: I haven't looked at the documents. I don't know what's in them. I have only scratched the surface.

QUESTION: Has he confessed his guilt to you?

CHAMBERS: I'm not going to tell you what he told me.

QUESTION: Do you think this was intentional on the parts of the FBI (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CHAMBERS: I don't know. I think that -- that certainly a -- it is appropriate for there to be a complete investigation into every aspect of this. As to how it was that in a case of this magnitude that the FBI could have documents for six years and not release them until less than a week before a scheduled execution, it is -- it is astounding! And it needs to be -- it needs to be investigated. We need to know what happened here.

QUESTION: Is 30 days long enough for...

CHAMBERS: Don't know.

QUESTION: Is 30 days long enough to make an informed decision?

CHAMBERS: I don't know.

QUESTION: Can you give a sense of your schedule, how you plan to go about doing what, and when certain decision may be made?

CHAMBERS: No. We don't have any deadline, and we are not going to impose a deadline on ourselves.

QUESTION: What's your...

CHAMBERS: Before today, we had deadline of Wednesday. And now we have a deadline of June 11. And we will do something within that deadline.

QUESTION: But is it conceivable now that if you don't have time to properly assess the documents for yourself, would you ask the Justice Department for a little more time to complete your -- to your satisfaction?

CHAMBERS: I'm not foreclosing any options.

QUESTION: Is it conceivable that you would ask for more time, that you would need to go to Judge Matsch of the 10th circuit and say that 26 days isn't enough? We are halfway through it, we feel we need 30 or 60 more days?

CHAMBERS: I'm not foreclosing any options.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense that aren't more documents where these came from?

CHAMBERS: Well, I think there is -- there is every reason to question that. You know, as I said earlier, faith and confidence is something that is earned. And it hasn't been earned in this case. And in our 22-55, we have made allegations that Brady material had been improperly withheld. And this recent incident does nothing to instill confidence in me.

QUESTION: Mr. Chambers, is Timothy McVeigh prepared to die on Wednesday?

CHAMBERS: Well, that is a troubling aspect of these developments. We have a situation here where Mr. McVeigh had prepared to die. Mentally, psychologically, he made preparations. He had said good-bye to his family, and he is distressed that he may have to go through that process again.

QUESTION: There are people who say he has confessed. What's the point of this? Can you talk about why the rules of evidence -- why it is important, if there is a delay while you look at these?

CHAMBERS: Well, it is important that there be public confidence in the process. And here we have a situation, where there was a court order which everyone was aware of, which required material such as is to be turned over. And, again, you know we are not talking about some -- somebody who broke into a car and some documents were not turned over.

This is the FBI's most important investigation, maybe ever. And they hold themselves out as being the premier law enforcement agency in the world. I think that, given that, if they are incapable of handling their most important investigation in a manner that instills confidence, we all need to be concerned. And I might add, this episode is not the FBI's first black eye.

QUESTION: What are your feelings about the attorney general's decision today?

CHAMBERS: Well, Robert, it seems to me that -- I think that what the attorney general is trying to accomplish, is to restore faith and confidence that, for good reason, is perhaps lacking.

The fact of the matter is that the Department of Justice faced a public relations nightmare. And it is through their own doing they are in this circumstance, and I think that frankly what they are trying to do is find a graceful way out of it, and their trying to spin it in a way that makes them look like the good guys, thank you.

CHEN: Nathan Chambers, the attorney -- lead attorney -- for Timothy McVeigh, now speaking with reporters outside his office in Denver. Saying at the end there he felt that the decision by Attorney General Ashcroft to delay the execution of Tim McVeigh until June 11, at least, is a product of the DOJ, the Department of Justice trying get away from a PR nightmare, as he called it, although we know earlier that Attorney General Ashcroft said that it was interest of justice that was causing him to make that decision.

Nathan Chambers also saying his that his client had some distress about the decision to delay his execution, because he had already made his peace with death and he had already said good-bye to members of his family.

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