McVeigh lawyers try to make jurors understand his rage over Waco
DENVER (AP) _ Timothy McVeigh’s lawyers today tried to make jurors understand his rage over Waco, with a Soldier of Fortune magazine editor testifying it’s a common belief in the militia culture McVeigh embraced that federal agents ``recklessly endangered the lives of women and children.″
About 80 people died in fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, exactly two years before the Oklahoma City federal building bombing that killed 168 people.
Prosecutors contended McVeigh was driven to commit the bombing by rage over Waco. And as McVeigh’s attorneys sought to spare him the death penalty, they tried to show he was not alone in the belief the government was wrong.
In a Soldier of Fortune article the first week of April 1995 titled ``No Peace Without Justice,″ James Pate said he wrote that federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents planned the attack on the Branch Davidians.
Pate said the article was based on numerous confidential documents obtained from military sources that detailed the planning and revealed ``they knew women and children were there.″
He said many people who travel the gun-show circuit, like McVeigh, believe the Branch Davidians were attacked by the ATF in a raid to arrest one man, and the agents ``recklessly endangered the lives of women and children.″
Pate said militia movement followers believe the U.S. Constitution has been subverted, because it ``was designed as a limitation on government, not on citizens, and that has been flip-flopped.″
Citing McVeigh’s anti-government writings, Pate said McVeigh’s reference to ``power hungry storm troopers″ was a phrase in the militia movement referring to ``conduct in specific incidents where at least the perception is ... there has been excessive force, abusive force.″
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Patrick Ryan said many of Pate’s articles are based on undisclosed sources, including federal agents who ``always say inflammatory things″ about their agency.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch admitted the articles and videotapes about Waco into evidence, but he warned jurors they were not being received for the ``truth or accuracy″ of the events.
The same jury that last week convicted McVeigh of murder and conspiracy in the blast is expected to begin deliberating as early as Thursday whether he should die by injection or be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Although she will not be testifying in the penalty phase, McVeigh’s sister, Jennifer, was in court to show her support.
``I love him,″ she said as she walked in. ``I don’t want him to die.″
Much of the defense penalty phase case Monday relied on McVeigh’s friends and Army buddies to offer glimpses of his less-ominous past.
Some had trouble believing McVeigh’s transformation from a happy-go-lucky boy into a disillusioned veteran fixated on Waco.
Richard Drzyzga, who lived four doors from the McVeighs in Pendleton, N.Y., testified that after McVeigh served in the Gulf War he disappeared for about a year, and then one day in 1993 sent Drzyzga a videotape critical of the FBI’s raid at Waco.
``It scared me,″ he said. ``It scared me to the point that I turned to my wife and said, `What the hell has he gotten into.‴
There were other signs of McVeigh’s transformation.
Gulf War gunner William Dilly testified that McVeigh was always urging him to read ``The Turner Diaries,″ a racist novel that begins with the bombing of a federal building by revolutionaries. He also described how McVeigh had a habit of taking battlefield pictures of dead Iraqis.
And one defense witness, McVeigh’s childhood friend Vicki Hodge, hinted at his changed personality when he left the Army in 1991 after failing to qualify for the elite Special Forces.
``He seemed maybe just a little bit disillusioned,″ said Ms. Hodge, who hasn’t seen McVeigh much since that time.
For the most part, McVeigh’s Army buddies sang his praises _ and he smiled or laughed in response.
``He was it, the man, the top dog of the company,″ said Bruce Williams, who served in a cramped Bradley fighting vehicle with McVeigh during the 1991 war against Iraq. ``I just assumed he would go and do great things.″