Saturday, May 12, 2001

Missing evidence
raises questions about
death penalty

The issue: The FBI's discovery of
previously unseen evidence in the
Timothy McVeigh case raises new
questions about the death penalty
and the agency's credibility.

THE FAILURE of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to turn over more than 3,000 documents to the attorneys of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh magnifies the finality of the death penalty and damages confidence in the nation's top law enforcement agency.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, in postponing McVeigh's execution, said that nothing in the documents would have changed the jury's verdict in convicting McVeigh of the bombing that killed 168 people. But his protestations are no excuse. Due process is a pillar of the U.S. legal system and of paramount importance in cases in which the death penalty can be invoked.

Although the bureau should be given credit for the thousands of operations it conducts against legitimate targets with credible results, the McVeigh matter lends unwarranted credibility to those who stir up government conspiracy scenarios that McVeigh claims were his motive for the deadly bombing.

There is little doubt that McVeigh is guilty; he has admitted this himself. However, there have been 23 cases between 1900 and 1987 in which people were put to death and later found to be innocent. No amount of apologizing can retrieve a life taken. The whole thing underscores once again that there is no justice in killing another human being, even one as vile as Timothy McVeigh.

The FBI says that overlooking the documents was unintentional and that it moved swiftly to correct the mistake once it was discovered. That this failure should occur in such a high-profile case, one that demanded attention to detail, is incredible, especially in the light of other recent revelations.

Last month, a man from Boston told Congress he had spent 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit; he was freed only after a judge concluded that the FBI had hidden evidence that would have proven him innocent.

The bureau was also called into question in its investigation of Wen Ho Lee, a Los Alamos nuclear scientist accused of selling secrets to China. The FBI kept him in solitary confinement for nine months, only to find that he was not a spy.

In recent days, members of Congress and the Bush administration having railed against the ouster of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Commission. As long as the death penalty remains law, the American voice in favor of human rights will have diminished influence.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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