His distraught mother had held back tears and called him “a child any mother could be proud of.” His father had played a videotape of happier times and professed his love for his son. But the pleas and the passions were not enough to win clemency for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. In Denver last week, the district court jury that had convicted McVeigh on June 2 of multiple murder sentenced him to die by lethal injection. The decision brought a sense of muted relief to victims’ families in Oklahoma City. Jim Denny, whose children were severely injured, declared: “The punishment fit the crime.”
During the concluding penalty phase of the eight-week trial, the jury of seven men and five women had to decide whether the 29-year-old Gulf War veteran should be put to death or given life without parole. The prosecution called 38 witnesses, many of them sobbing, to describe the horrors of the bomb blast that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people. The defence sought to humanize McVeigh, calling relatives and former army buddies. Only when his divorced parents, William McVeigh and Mildred Frazier, pleaded for their son’s life did he show
any emotion, occasionally wiping at his eye.
Legal experts said McVeigh’s execution could come relatively quickly—within a few years—if he is unsuccessful in the appeals process that automatically kicks in after a death sentence. They doubted that the Supreme Court would hear the case. While the appeals go on, the state of Oklahoma says it will put McVeigh on trial for the murder of 160 of the victims. His federal trial—and his sentence last week—covered only the deaths of eight federal agents.
Affair of the general
Atop U.S. air force general who admitted committing adultery withdrew his name as a candidate for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Joseph Ralston, 53, said he wanted to end the controversy over his nomination. Although Defence Secretary William Cohen had given Ralston his full support, opponents claimed the general’s 1985 affair with a civilian while he was separated from his wife showed a military double standard in dealing with sexual mores. The Pentagon had recently dismissed or transferred other officers involved in adultery, which can be a crime in
military law. Women’s groups had pointed especially to the recent discharge of the first female B-52 pilot, Kelly Flinn, after she admitted she had concealed her relationship with a married civilian.
Ralston insisted there was no double standard, and his supporters pointed out that he had his liaison while taking a course, not while in command of troops. Flinn, they argued, was bounced for lying to her superiors. But Ralston withdrew after talking with congressmen who indicated a reluctance to approve his promotion from vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Cohen said he would review military rules on sexual indiscretions.
A RIFT WITHIN NATO
The White House was accused of preempting a July summit in Madrid on NATO’s expansion by announcing it would support the admission of only three former east bloc countries: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. In response, Germany joined France in pushing for Romania and Slovenia to be admitted as well in the first phase of the 27-country alliance’s enlargement. Canada has also backed the two as members.
HONG KONG BOYCOTT
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said they would stay away from the swearing-in of Hong Kong’s newly appointed legislature when they attend ceremonies marking the territory’s July 1 handover to China. But Australia, New Zealand and Japan said they would not join the protest against the body, which Beijing set up to replace a legislature elected under the British. At week’s end, Canada had not said what it would do.
MIDDLE EAST FLASH POINTS
Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in Gaza as new efforts to restart the Middle East peace process stalled. An Egyptian envoy failed to make headway with Israel on Palestinian demands to freeze Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, angered Arab leaders by passing a resolution backing Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
A TORY FRONT-RUNNER
William Hague, a 36-year-old former cabinet minister, emerged as the leading candidate to replace John Major as head of Britain’s Conservative party. Hague placed second in the initial round of voting, behind former chancellor of the exchequer Kenneth Clarke. But later, two candidates expected to back Clarke threw their support to Hague. A second round was due to be held early this week.
CONVICTING A SKI BUM
A Connecticut jury found Alex Kelly, 30, guilty of the rape of a 16-year-old girl in 1986. Kelly became a symbol of privileged youth in trouble when his family bankrolled eight years of travel abroad-including skiing in Europeto keep him from facing trial.
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