Washington — Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft announced Thursday that the Justice Department has turned over nearly 900 additional pages of documents that should have been given to defense attorneys for Timothy McVeigh, but said the Oklahoma City bomber's execution will proceed because there's no doubt about his guilt.
Ashcroft said he is confident that FBI agents and Justice lawyers have found all the previously missing documents in the McVeigh case, totaling 4,034 pages, including 63 more pages turned over to defense attorneys Thursday.
He characterized nearly all the material as meaningless, and said it amounted to less than 1 percent of all the potential evidence gathered during the worldwide hunt for McVeigh and his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols.
"The first delay in this case was necessary for this review by lawyers for the defense and the prosecution," Ashcroft said in a news conference. "A second delay in this case would ignore the evidence and the facts of the case. We also need to be sensitive to the victims of this ruthless attack. ... I will not add to their pain."
But McVeigh attorney Rob Nigh said the documents turned over in the last two weeks include statements from witnesses that would have been helpful to McVeigh's defense during his trial and sentencing, and predicted they could help McVeigh win another delay in the case.
Nigh said the recent documents include information about the FBI's search for an alleged accomplice known as "John Doe 2," although he never materialized and McVeigh has said he doesn't exist.
"It's certainly true that there is a great deal of irrelevant information in those documents," Nigh said in a telephone interview. "It's equally true that there are relevant witness statements that would have been helpful to us. ... The integrity of the process is what's at stake here."
Nigh said the execution should at least be delayed until Glenn Fine, the acting Justice Department inspector general, completes an investigation into the documents fiasco. Fine and other Justice officials haven't indicated when that report would be finished.