Monday, April 27, 2009

This Month, We Remember . . .

by Donna Weaver

This month, we observe the anniversary of a national tragedy.
April 19th marked 14 years since the devastating act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by political extremist Timothy McVeigh and conspirator Terry Nichols that not only destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (pictured left), but ended the lives of 168 innocent men. women, and children, injured over 800 people, and forever ravaged the lives of their countless loved ones . . . those who survived . . . and a nation. Who could forget the photo (below) that captured the heartbreak of senseless, sudden loss that day.

Hundreds gathered last Sunday at the site of the bombing to commemorate the day where 168 empty chairs sat on the grass in place of the building that once stood there. Loved ones of the victims and survivors read the names of each of those killed and the crowd observed 168 seconds of silence for each life lost.

Several pieces of important legislation were enacted by the U. S. government as a result of the bombing of the Murrah building and its aftermath. Among those, The Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, (AEDPA) was signed by Congress to "deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, provide for an effective death penalty, and for other purposes.

Because the trials of the perpetrators and conspirators were moved out of state (from Oklahoma to Denver, Colorado), President Clinton signed the Victim Allocution Clarification Act of 1997, which allowed victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing, and those of any future acts of violence, to observe and offer victim-impact testimony at trials.

Clinton stated that "when someone is a victim, he or she should be at the center of the criminal justice process, not on the outside looking in."

Timothy McVeigh (pictured left) was arrested hours after the bombing for driving without a license plate and for carrying a concealed weapon. At his trial, the prosecution stated that McVeigh's motivation for the horrific act of domestic terrorism was his hatred of the U. S. government, which grew in part from the incidents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992, and the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993. The April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing occured on the anniversay of the end of the 51-day seige in Waco in which 50 adults and 25 children died after federal law enforcement launched a fiery assault. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at a U. S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 11, 2001. It was the first federal exection in 38 years.

Terry Nichols was tried twice, once by the federal government, and once by the state of Oklahoma. He was found guilty of the federal charges of conspiring to build a weapon of mass destruction and of eight counts of involuntary manslaughter of federal officers. He was sentenced to life without parole. Although the State of Oklahoma sought the death penalty for 161 counts of first-degree murder, the jury became deadlocked on the issue of death and Nichols was instead sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, agreed to testify against McVeigh in exchange for a reduced sentence and immunity for his wife, Lori. In 1998, Fortier was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay a $200,000 for failing to warn authorities about the attack. Fortier was released from prison in January 2006, and is living under a new identity in the Witness Protection Program.

This month also marks the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre where teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot and killed 13 others before taking their own lives on April 20, 1999.

As the country observes the beginning of National Crime Victims' Rights Week today, I ask you to not only remember the victims of these and other highly publicized tragic crimes, but the hundreds of thousands of others—survivors, homicide victims, missing persons, and their families and loved ones left behind. To commemorate Crime Victims' Rights Week as well as the last week of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month, Women in Crime Ink will feature other observance posts over the next several days from our contributors and from you, our readers.


Leah said...

Great post Donna. It really doesn't seem like it was that long ago that these things took place.

Jan said...

Thank you for mentioning National Crime Victims' Rights Week in your article. As a victim struggling to rebuild my life I really appreciate it. We are too often made to feel invisible. Thanks for noticing us.