Menu

The Search for Justice: McVeigh Appeals

Before later abandoning efforts to stop his execution, lawyers for Timothy McVeigh sought to overturn the guilty verdicts from his trial.

The history of the appeals:

U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
On Sept. 8, 1998, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver voted 3-0 to uphold the conviction and death sentence of Timothy J. McVeigh for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Lawyers for McVeigh had appealed their client's conviction, alleging U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch, who presided over the McVeigh trial, had made a number of improper rulings. The appeal had been made public Jan. 16, 1998.

In arguments before the appeals court April 28, 1998, defense attorneys Robert Nigh Jr. and Richard Burr accused Matsch of failing to investigate reports a juror had told other members of the panel he believed McVeigh was guilty before the prosecution and defense had finished presenting their arguments. McVeigh's attorneys argued the juror was guilty of misconduct and that McVeigh should be granted a new trial.

McVeigh's attorneys also alleged jurors had been exposed to prejudicial pretrial publicity, specifically news reports McVeigh had confessed to the bombing. They further accused Matsch of unfairly suppressing evidence a person other than McVeigh had committed the bombing.

McVeigh's lawyers on July 15, 1998 asked the appeals court to apply one of its recent rulings to McVeigh's case. The ruling in question barred federal prosecutors from promising witnesses leniency in exchange for testimony. McVeigh's defense team argued the ruling meant Oklahoma City bombing prosecutors had used illegal tactics to persuade McVeigh's former friend, Michael Fortier, to testify against him.

Fortier, in a 1995 plea deal with prosecutors, had agreed to plead guilty to reduced federal charges related to the bombing plot in exchange for his testimony against McVeigh and an alleged co-conspirator, Terry L. Nichols.

The appeals court July 17, 1998 rejected McVeigh's request, saying his lawyers had submitted it too late in the process.

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on March 8, 1999 refused, without comment, to hear an appeal brought by Timothy McVeigh. In his appeal, McVeigh, who had been sentenced to death for the crime, claimed his trial had been tainted by the extensive publicity surrounding his case and by juror misconduct.

The justices let stand the 1998 ruling by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver that had upheld McVeigh's conviction and sentence.