DENVER GR COLOR PHOTO — DENVER -- Timothy J. McVeigh, a Persian Gulf war veteran who believed patriotism required him to stand up to tyranny by bombing the Oklahoma City federal building, was sentenced to die yesterday for the worst terrorist attack in American history.
McVeigh, 29, showed no emotion as he watched U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch read the death sentence. When the judge asked each juror if he or she agreed with the finding, McVeigh nodded in acknowledgment at every one.
And as he was taken from the courtroom, just after the verdict was read at 3: 30 p.m., McVeigh gestured to his mother, father and crying sister and appeared to mouth, "It's OK."
He then turned politely toward the jurors and gave them the same small wave before walking out with federal marshals.
One hundred sixty-eight people were killed April 19, 1995, as a truck packed with explosives tore the front off the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The attack left the city in mourning and shattered the country's sense of security.
The same jury of seven men and five women that convicted McVeigh on June 2 spent about 11 hours over two days in deciding on a sentence.
They rejected defense lawyers' assertion that McVeigh was justified in bombing the Murrah building, driven by a patriotic passion to defy a federal authority that had grown out of control.
The jurors didn't accept the contention that McVeigh felt compelled to avenge the deaths that occurred after a government siege at the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, in 1993.
"I want to thank you on behalf of all the people of the United States," Matsch said to the jurors, whose privacy he had shielded by refusing to release their names. "You have served our country, and you have served the system.
"You decided this as a group of 12. No one of you can change it. And you know you don't have to explain it to anybody."
Last night, CNN spoke with Tonya Steadman, who had been known as Juror 10. "I feel there was honesty among myself and the other jurors with respect to the decision, and we conveyed that to him the best way we could. I can't say how it feels," she said.
Another juror, David Gilger said: "I'm glad its complete. I think there's a sense of closure for everyone."
The mood inside and outside the courtroom was funereal, in sober contrast to the public elation that surrounded McVeigh's guilty verdict June 2. A knot of people stood on the sidewalk to watch the prosecutors leave the building, and a few applauded briefly.
"This is not a day of great joy for the prosecution team," said Joseph Hartzler, who led the government's team of lawyers. "We're pleased that the system worked and that justice prevailed.
"The verdict doesn't diminish the great sadness that occurred in Oklahoma City two years ago," Hartzler said.
Grim defense attorney
Stephen Jones, McVeigh's chief lawyer, looked grim as he stood before microphones with the rest of the defense team.
"The jury has spoken, and their verdict is entitled to respect, and all Americans should accord it that respect until such time if ever it is overturned by a court of competent jurisdiction," Jones said. "We ask that barriers and intolerance that have divided us may crumble, that suspicions disappear and that hatreds cease, and that our divisions and intolerance being healed, we may live together in justice and peace.
As he walked away from the courthouse, Jones autographed special editions of a Denver newspaper with the bold, black headline, "DEATH."
The McVeigh trial drew many of the victims' relatives and survivors 600 miles from their homes in Oklahoma to Denver.
"It worked out just right," said Charles Tomlin, whose son, Rick, died in the blast. "A great verdict."
"It's the decision I wanted, but it still hurts me that we had to take another person's life," said Jannie Coverdale, who lost her grandsons Aaron and Elijah.
Prosecutor Patrick Ryan, who is the U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City, had a few words for people who share McVeigh's extreme political views.
"I'd like to tell the people in the patriot community that I hope what was said about them in the courtroom was wrong," Ryan said. "I don't think there are people out there who believe the way this defendant believes. The way to change policy is to go to the voting booth, call for congressional hearings."
During the trial, which began with jury selection March 31, prosecutors painted McVeigh as an enraged political extremist who bombed the Murrah building as revenge for the deaths at Waco.
The 51-day standoff ended in a fire that consumed the headquarters of David Koresh and killed about 80 people, two years to the day before the Oklahoma City bombing.
After the verdict, McVeigh's lawyers adopted that argument as their own, suggesting to jurors that McVeigh had good reason to be angry about the unbridled authority of federal agents.