Department of Justice Seal



FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2001

(202) 616-2777


TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General John Ashcroft today issued the following statement regarding the execution of Timothy McVeigh:

  • "Our system of justice requires basic fairness, even-handedness and dispassionate evaluation of the evidence and the facts. These fundamental requirements are essential to protecting the Constitutional rights of every citizen and to sustaining public confidence in the administration of justice. It is my responsibility as Attorney General to promote and protect the integrity of our system of justice.

  • "The ultimate sentence in the federal system of justice is the death penalty. The last death penalty imposed by the federal courts under the federal law occurred in 1963. The United States Congress and the President of the United States reinstated the death penalty by law in the 1980s and expanded capital sentencing in 1994 for 60 new and existing federal offenses, including the most violent and brutal crimes imaginable.

  • "Before the death penalty can be imposed, a special hearing is required to determine whether a sentence of death is justified in the particular case. Following a conviction for a major crime eligible for the death penalty, a jury must determine whether a sentence of death is justified, based on evidence and arguments presented by each side and instructions from the court.

  • "On June 2, 1997, a federal district court jury convicted Timothy McVeigh of bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. That bombing took place on April 19, 1995. His savage crime was the largest terrorist attack within the United States in our history, killing 168 innocent people, including 19 children, injuring hundreds more, and shattering the lives of thousands of Americans.

  • "On June 13, 1997, a jury recommended that Timothy McVeigh be sentenced to death for his crime, and that sentence was imposed by a federal judge on August 14, 1997. McVeigh's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal and his post-conviction challenges have been rejected by the courts, including the United States Supreme Court. The Bureau of Prisons, which has been granted discretion by the district court over the imposition of the sentence, scheduled McVeigh's execution for May 16, 2001.

  • "Yesterday, I was notified that documents in the McVeigh case which should have been provided to his defense attorneys during the discovery phase of the trial, were not given to Justice Department prosecutors by the FBI.

  • "In most criminal cases, these FBI documents would not be required to be given to defense counsel during the discovery process. However, in the McVeigh case, the government agreed to go beyond the documentation required between prosecution and defense teams. While the FBI provided volumes of documents in this case, it is now clear that the FBI failed to comply fully with that discovery agreement that was reached in 1996. Today I have asked the Inspector General of the Justice Department to investigate fully the FBI's belated delivery of documents and other evidence created during this investigation.

  • "When Justice Department prosecutors received the documents from the FBI, they notified District Court trial judge, Richard Matsch, and Timothy McVeigh's defense lawyers. These FBI documents were delivered to defense attorneys yesterday. The FBI is continuing to review its files to ensure full compliance with the court's discovery requirements.

  • "Career attorneys at the Department of Justice are confident that these documents do not create any reasonable doubt about McVeigh's guilt nor do they contradict his admission of guilt for the crime.

  • "Over the past twenty-four hours, I have carefully considered the facts of this situation. Timothy McVeigh, by his own admission, is guilty of an act of terrorism that stole life from 168 innocent Americans and these documents do not contradict the jury's verdict in the case.

  • "However, I believe the Attorney General has a more important duty than the prosecution of any single case, as painful as that may be to our nation. It is my responsibility to promote the sanctity of the rule of law and justice. It is my responsibility and duty to protect the integrity of our system of justice.

  • "Therefore, I have decided to postpone the execution of Timothy McVeigh for one month from this day, so that the execution would occur on June 11th in order to allow his attorneys adequate time to review these documents and to take any action they deem appropriate in that interval.

  • "I know many Americans will question why the execution of someone who is clearly guilty of such a heinous crime should be delayed. I understand that victims and victims' family members await justice.

  • "But if any questions or doubts remain about this case, it would cast a permanent cloud over justice - diminishing its value and questioning its integrity. For those victims and for our nation, I want justice to be carried out fairly. And I want a criminal justice system that has the full faith and confidence of the American people."