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Ashcroft allows closed-circuit coverage of McVeigh execution

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Apr 13, 2001    

Ashcroft allows closed-circuit coverage of McVeigh execution

  • Survivors and victims’ families will be allowed to see the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and a federal court in Indiana will determine whether an Internet company can provide a Web cast of the execution on May 16.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has approved the first televised federal execution for viewing but only by survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing and families of the victims. They will be allowed to watch as Timothy McVeigh receives a lethal injection on May 16.

In a press conference on April 12, Ashcroft said the federal Bureau of Prison’s regulation that only eight victims or family members may witness an execution was “inadequate” given the magnitude of the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

“It is a unique set of circumstances that confront us,” Ashcroft said. “The Department of Justice must make special provisions to assist the needs of the survivors and victims’ families in accordance with our responsibilities to carry out justice.”

Ashcroft also announced that he would not allow any televised interviews with McVeigh. McVeigh is allowed to use the telephone for 15 minutes a day and Ashcroft said he could use those calls to speak to reporters.

“As an American who cares about our culture, I want to restrict a mass murderer’s access to the public podium,” the attorney general said. “I do not want anyone to be able to purchase access to the podium of America with the blood of 168 innocent victims.” McVeigh was convicted for the 1995 bombing which killed 168 people. He will be the first federal prisoner executed since 1963.

Ten witnesses, instead of eight, will be allowed in the viewing chamber. Other survivors or family members will watch from an undetermined site in Oklahoma City. The execution will take place at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Ashcroft said federal regulations prohibit recording executions so an encrypted, instantaneous transmission of the event will be sent via high-speed digital telephone lines.

The idea of a closed-circuit telecast came after more than 250 survivors or family members asked to witness the execution. In 1996, survivors and family members watched McVeigh’s trial in Colorado via closed-circuit technology while in Oklahoma City.

Survivors and family members are not the only people fighting for the right to witness the execution. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana will hear arguments on April 17 to decide whether to permit a live transmission of the execution over the Internet. Entertainment Network, Inc. said it has a constitutional right to Web cast.

“The government is sponsoring the killing of the human being who was responsible for this horrendous act and we believe the people have an absolute right to witness this action,” said David Marshlack, chief executive of ENI, in an interview with Business Wire.

(U.S. v. McVeigh; Entertainment Network, Inc. v. Lappin; Media Counsel: Derek A. Newman, Newman & Newman, Seattle, Wash.; Stephen L. Trueblood, Trueblood Law Firm, Terre Haute, Ind.) EH

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