Four FBI agents involved in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation have told 60 Minutes II that they were not surprised that evidence was not turned over before trial, causing a delay in the execution of Timothy McVeigh.
Just six days before McVeigh was to be put to death, Attorney General John Ashcroft put his execution on hold. The FBI had neglected to turn over more than 3,000 documents, including potential witness statements, to defense attorneys.
CBS News has been told his lawyers now believe they have found grounds to appeal his death sentence. One factor: the FBI's mishandling of evidence in the case and the possibility some evidence is still being withheld.
One agent says evidence that he personally obtained -- evidence that might have helped McVeigh's case -- may have been ignored or not documented by the FBI. Rob Nigh, McVeigh's attorney, says the new information will change the course of his client's case in the near future.
McVeigh has authorized his attorneys to draft a request to block his execution, but will make the final decision before anything is filed.
Former FBI agent Rick Ojeda received a commendation for his work on the Oklahoma City bombing case, but was later fired in what he calls an act of retaliation for bringing discrimination complaints against his bosses. In March 2000, Ojeda stated in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that he was aware of cases, "including the Oklahoma City bombing, where exculpatory evidence was ignored and not documented." He also said that he personally gathered some of that evidence.
Veteran FBI agent Jim Volz was also on duty the day McVeigh destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. He reviewed the FBI's internal documents on the bombing, including interview notes, witness statements, sightings and tips. "It's extremely surprising to me that these documents all of a sudden show up," says Volz. "There's no reason for it unless there is negligence."
Dan Vogel was the FBI's public voice in Oklahoma City during the bombing investigation. Vogel says he's concerned that the FBI waited until a week before McVeigh's execution to reveal the missing documents. "If you're not turning them over, you're obstructing justice," says Vogel.
"There was a cultural problem in the FBI that needed to be addressed, otherwise it is going to destroy itself," says Vogel. "You see the FBI is made up of a lot of very fine, dedicated people. And these people deserve better, the American public deserve better, and these recent revelations where we have a man scheduled for execution and all of a sudden we find documents that haven't been turned over to the defense attorneys or to the prosecution a week before the execution, that really made up my mind, after that there was no question in my mind that I needed to come here today and do whatever I could to - to try to get this changed."
While FBI Director Louis Freeh blames the missing document foul-up on computer glitches and administrative mismanagement, Vogel told 60 Minutes II he sees it differently.
"They've admitted they've known about the documents since January and didn't say anything publicly anyway. That's the greatest concern to me, that you wait until a week before the execution to say 'oh, by the way we have your documents'.... I know that if I would have done something like that when I was working criminal cases, that I would have been disciplined for it and you know it would have been very severe...."
60 Minutes II shared the information provided by the FBI agents with McVeigh's attorney Nigh. "That information should, at minimum, change the course of this case in the near future," says Nigh. "An FBI agent who worked on the bombing prosecution has indicated by these words that information beneficial to the defense was withheld. That would be in violation of the agreement. That would be in violation of Judge Matsch's order and it would be in violation of due process of law."
"These agents have indicated that there is at least a possibility of misconduct rising to the level of criminal misconduct in Tim McVeigh's case. The importance of this information cannot be overstated... I was absolutely overwhelmed." Nigh added, "If those statements are accurate, the verdict has no integrity and we cannot possibly proceed with an execution until we know."
Ojeda believes the latest twist in the bombing case is a reflection of what's wrong with th FBI. "The main problem is, who does the FBI answer to? When somebody in the FBI screws up, when the FBI screws up, who do they answer to? Nobody."
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In all, 4,034 pages of materials about the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building have been found that should have been turned over to McVeigh's attorneys years ago. The FBI says computer and record-keeping blunders caused the problem and that some documents were not material to the case.
The attorney general Thursday insisted none of the new evidence bears on McVeigh's conviction or sentence and said no further delay would be necessary.
Nathan Chambers, a member of McVeigh's legal team, said Saturday he could not comment on any of the FBI documents. He said attorneys had not yet decided whether to seek a new trial or a stay of execution.
A court order prevents the Justice Department from releasing the evidence to the public or describing it in detail. Among the evidence found, according to Ashcroft, were:
- Newspaper, magazine clippings an a swimsuit calendar from a person in psychiatric care. "Most of these clippings did not pertain to the bombing," the attorney general said.
- Correspondence from a person offering unspecified information in exchange for getting a person released from prison, a large cash award and a trip to Europe.
- Letters containing information about "non-physical beings" and "offers by psychics to contact victims for information on the bombing."
- Documents recording services of subpoenas and other routine legal matters.
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