McVeigh convicted in Oklahoma City bombing

DENVER (AP) — Timothy McVeigh was convicted Monday in the deadliest act of terror on U.S. soil, a verdict that brought jubilation and bitter tears to relatives of the 168 people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. The jury will now decide whether he should pay with his life.
McVeigh sat at the defense table with his hands in ha white-knuckle clasp and an impassive expression as U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch announced the verdict of guilty on all 11 counts of murder and conspiracy.
In the audience, tears welled in the eyes of the more than two dozen bombing survivors and victims’ relatives. After the court session, they broke into sobs and embraced each other. One man thrust his fist into the air.
“We were holding hands and praying and crying,” said Katherine Alaniz, whose father, Claude Medearis, died in the bombing. “My mom reached into her purse and handed me his wedding ring and, of course, I just lost it … I started crying. It was wonderful.”
The momentary joy was tempered by memories of the losses in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast shattered America’s sense of security.
The same jury that took 23 hours over four days to convict McVeigh returns Wednesday to hear evidence on whether he should die by injection. It will be a mini-trial featuring what likely will be the most wrenching testimony of the case: survivors and relatives describing the upheaval in their lives. McVeigh will probably call family members to plead for mercy.
Jurors remained under a gag order preventing them from discussing the reasons for their verdict.
Prosecutors contended McVeigh drove a Ryder truck loaded with a 4,000 pound fuel-and-fertilizer bomb to the Murrah building and set the fuse in a twisted plot to revenge the FBI’s siege at Waco exactly two years earlier and spark a second American revolution.
The bomb went off at 9:02 a.m., turning the morning into a swirl of flying glass, collapsing walls and crumbling concrete. Nine floors collapsed into an area the size of three, crushing the victims, in the words of one rescuer, “like grapes.” Among the dead were 19 children, most of whom had just been dropped off at the building’s day-care center.
The hunt for the bomber yielded one of America’s own, the fresh-faced former Army sergeant who was raised in the small town of Pendleton, N.Y., and was decorated for his actions as an armored-vehicle gunner in the Persian Gulf.
When the verdict was read, McVeigh stared at the Judge. None of his attorneys comforted him or said anything to him.
As jurors were polled as to whether they were sure of their decision, the foreman stared at McVeigh and answered in a loud firm voice, “Yes.” Two red-eyed jurors held tissues in their hands and appeared close to tears.
After Matsch dismissed the jury, McVeigh was escorted out by four U.S. marshals. He shook lead attorney Stephen Jones’ hand and the two exchanged whispered words. Just as he was taken out of the courtroom, he shook Christopher Tritico’s hand.
Peggy Broxterman, who listened to the verdicts in an auxiliary courtroom, called it an “absolute thrill,” but said vindication for the death of her 43-year-old son and others wasn’t complete.
“It’s not over until he’s dead,” she said.
Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler and Patrick Ryan spoke at a gathering of more than 100 victims’ relatives and survivors at a nearby church that they had been using as a haven. Complimented on their handling of the case, Hartzler replied that the work “was a labor of love.”
Hartzler left the federal courthouse to the applause of hundreds of people assembled on the sidewalk. Hartzler, who had multiple sclerosis, stopped his electric wheelchair to speak briefly to the crush of reporters.
“We’re obviously very pleased with the results. We always had confidence in our evidence,” he said. “We’re ready to move onto the next stage.”
In Washington, President Clinton said the verdict heralded “a very important and long overdue day for the survivors and families of those who died in Oklahoma City.