The Federal Bureau of Prisons Tuesday set May 16 execution date for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, convicted in the worst act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil.
The 32-year-old Gulf War veteran, who would be executed by lethal injection, has been notified of the decision.
McVeigh, who is on death row at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., requested in December that a federal judge end his appeals and set an execution date. Last week, he let a deadline pass for pursuing any appeals, while reserving the right to seek clemency from the president.
McVeigh was convicted of murder and conspiracy in the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people and wounded more than 500.
He lost two appeals, at the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal appeals court, but he has not exhausted all appeals. McVeigh has not publicly accepted any responsibility for the bombing.
On Dec. 11 of last year, McVeigh asked U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch to end his appeals and set an execution date within 120 days. He has the legal right to do so, even if his lawyers object.
Matsch agreed to McVeigh's request last month, giving him until Jan. 11 to change his mind. The deadline passed at 5 p.m.
McVeigh hasn't explained why he wants an execution date to be set.
In a February 2000 interview with 60 Minutes Correspondent Ed Bradley, McVeigh discussed his readiness for death.
"It's a little easier being on death row because you know how you're going to die," McVeigh said. "You can narrow down where you're going to die and you can pretty much narrow down the time."
McVeigh's father, retired Pendleton, N.Y., factory worker William McVeigh, has said that his son explained his decision to the family. He told The Buffalo News, "I guess his feeling is, he knows he's going to die it might as well be sooner than later."
Others speculated McVeigh wants to become a martyr for anti-government causes, or wants to mock the U.S. government with his petition for clemency, knowing how long it has been since federal authorities put someone to death.
The federal government has not executed a prisoner in 37 years March 15, 1963, when it executed Victor Feguer, for murder and kidnapping.
Convicted murderer and federal death row inmate Juan Raul Garza was to die in December, but President Clinton put off that execution for six months to allow a Justice Department study of racial disparities in death sentences.
It is not clear what, if any, bearing Mr. Clinton's actions in the Garza case would have upon McVeigh's fate.
McVeigh's attorney, Nathan Chambers, said McVeigh has made no decision on whether to seek clemency.
"I don't know yet," he said. "That's something Mr. McVeigh has under consideration."
He said McVeigh has 30 days to file a petition for clemency with the Jutice Department's Office of Pardon Attorney, which will make a recommendation to the president.
U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Dan Dunne said officials initially delayed selecting an execution date until they could plan the event, including meeting the needs of the victims' relatives and survivors of the blast.
CBS News Correspondent Lee Frank reports the execution date is nearly one month after the anniversary of the bombing. Relatives of some of the 168 people killed have expressed concerns that McVeigh's desired death should not be too close to the anniversary.
Betty Robins, who was working in the building at the time of the bombing, said the execution date was fine with her.
"My feeling are as long as it is not the anniversary date, it will be fine," she said from the memorial at the bombing site, where she works as a volunteer. "Since the anniversary will be past almost a month it will be fine."
Prison officials started making plans Friday for the McVeigh's execution, including how to accommodate victims who may want to watch.
Under bureau guidelines, 10 seats in the Terre Haute execution chamber are reserved for news media representatives, eight for victims and other citizen witnesses, six for those selected by the inmate and eight chosen by the Justice Department.
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