Report: New FBI File Boosts Witness

#405304: Timothy McVeigh headshot, defendant in Alfred Murrah Federal Building bombing, photo
AP (file)
One of the newly discovered FBI documents handed over to Timothy McVeigh's lawyers calls into question evidence used to discredit a witness who testified he saw McVeigh with a second man an hour before the bombing, according to a published report.

The witness' credibility came under attack in part because a prosecutor said the man did not come forward for six months after the Oklahoma City bombing. But the FBI document, known as a lead sheet, confirmed he came forward two days after the bombing, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing an unidentified source familiar with the case.

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.

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  • McVeigh's execution was delayed this month until June 11 after Justice Department officials acknowledged the existence of the documents.

    Attorney General John Ashcroft Thursday insisted none of the new evidence bears on McVeigh's conviction or sentence and said no further delay would be necessary.

    The lead sheet pertained to Morris John Kuper Jr., a witness who told the FBI he saw a man resembling McVeigh walking with another man along the sidewalk near the federal building an hour before the bombing.

    In the trial of McVeigh's co-defendant, Terry Nichols, prosecutor Patrick Ryan challenged Kuper's credibility by saying he had made no attempt to contact the FBI before Oct. 24, 1995.

    "I certainly would never intentionally tell the jury someone had not come forward fo six months if I knew they had come forward a couple of days after the bombing," Ryan, now a lawyer in private practice, told the Times.

    Click on the following links to…
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    But prosecutors also questioned discrepancies between Kuper's statements to the FBI and his testimony at trial. Kuper was one of many witnesses called by Nichols' defense attorneys to attempt to show someone other than Nichols, a "John Doe No. 2," helped McVeigh plan the bombing.

    Some legal experts had argued evidence of an accomplice could have helped McVeigh's lawyers make the case for a reduced sentence.

    However, McVeigh himself may have sabotaged any chance he had to turn the FBI's flub into a permanent reprieve in his handwritten letter to the Houston Chronicle. In it, McVeigh writes flatly that no John Doe helped him blow up the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people.

    More Time For Nichols
    A state court hearing for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed until May 30, a court clerk said. No reason was given for the postponement.
    On Friday, Chris Watney, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, told the Times she could not comment on the details of the documents.

    "We have reviewed all of the documents carefully and remain confident that nothing in them undermines Mr. McVeigh's admission or the justice of his sentence," she said.

    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 and a swimsit 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.
    Ashcroft Thursday said the evidence also contained fingerprint cards and criminal history reports of "persons who turned out to have no connection to the case."

    Ashcroft also said the Justice Department would release to the public a redacted version of a report given to the defense lawyers "documenting the FBI's efforts to identify any remaining documents," which "explains the content and nature of newly produced documents."

    "As this report explains, the American people can now have confidence" that McVeigh's execution — the first federal execution in 38 years — is appropriate. "Nothing in these documents undermine the justice of his sentence."

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