McVeigh Fury Over Waco Siege Stressed
Using journalists, newsletters and videotapes, attorneys for Timothy J. McVeigh tried Tuesday to show how their client grew angry with the federal government because of what he had learned and read about the 1993 FBI raid on a religious compound near Waco, Texas.
U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch warned that he would not permit another rehearing into what happened between FBI agents and the Branch Davidian cultists.
But because McVeigh was so upset by his belief that the government killed about 80 people at the compound, Matsch allowed defense attorneys to demonstrate the kind of right-wing writing that the defendant read before the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
For instance, James Pate, an editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine, testified that people involved in anti-government circles are convinced that the FBI “recklessly endangered the lives of women and children” at Waco.
And Dick Reavis, an author who has written about alleged government misconduct during the Waco incident, testified that, at the end of the siege, the FBI fired a gas irritant into the complex in an attempt to force cult members to surrender.
He said that many people came to believe that the FBI went too far in trying to force an end to the 51-day siege.
“CS gas should not have been involved at all,” Reavis said. “The government should not have knocked holes in the building by driving tanks into it like it did. And the government either by negligence or malfeasance started the fire in the building.”
The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed exactly two years after the Waco incident. McVeigh, who was convicted June 2 in the Murrah blast, deliberately chose the anniversary to strike a blow against the government, according to testimony at the trial.
Jurors now are hearing testimony in the penalty phase of the trial. In sentencing McVeigh, they have two options: death by lethal injection or life in prison without parole.
McVeigh’s parents are scheduled to testify today as the last defense witnesses before attorneys on both sides present closing arguments on what they believe is the proper punishment for the 29-year-old former Army tank gunner.
His sister, Jennifer McVeigh, has been in the courtroom this week. She testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial about a series of highly inflammatory anti-government letters her brother wrote her in the months before the bombing that killed 168 people.
She is not likely to testify in the penalty phase. However, she still expresses support for her brother. “I love him,” she said as she walked into the courthouse Tuesday. “I don’t want him to die.”