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Judge backs Reno's death penalty call

DENVER, Sept. 25 -- Attorney General Janet Reno acted properly when she said she would seek the death penalty for those convicted of carrying out the Oklahoma City bombing, a judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch also ruled against defense challenges to the Federal Death Penalty Act and other motions seeking to throw out the death penalty on constitutional grounds. 'The judge ruled that the government acted appropriately in giving the death penalty notice and that the death penalty will stand in this case,' said Justice Department spokeswoman Leesa Brown.

Attorneys for accused bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols sought to disqualify Reno and other Justice Department employees from having a say in the decision whether to seek the death penalty. In a May 1 hearing, McVeigh attorney Stephen Jones called Reno 'Typhoid Mary,' accusing her of not playing by her own rules in announcing on the day of the explosion that she would seek the death penalty against whomever carried out the blast. Two days later President Clinton reiterated Reno's call. Prosecutor Sean Connelly countered by referring to the 19 children killed by the explosion, saying 'If the death penalty is not appropriate in this case, it's hard to imagine one where it would be.' McVeigh and Nichols, two former Army buddies, are charged with blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500 others. Matsch on May 30 dismissed a civil lawsuit by Nichols, who had sought to block prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. The suit had argued that the death penalty request should be disallowed because of Reno's comments.

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