A Texas lawyer has filed suit in federal court in Indiana seeking a further stay of execution for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh because the state of Colorado allegedly did not have the authority to try him.
Harmon L. Taylor, an attorney for plaintiffs Jane Graham and V. Z. Lawton – both survivors of the April 19, 1995, blast that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City – said that McVeigh’s 1997 trial in federal court in Denver, Colo., is “null and void” because the Constitution, as well as supporting federal law, states that criminal cases must be tried in states where the crimes occurred.
“The ‘transferee’ [federal] trial court in Colorado lacked … jurisdiction to try any criminal matter that arose in Oklahoma,” Taylor said, adding that the suit also seeks a delay in McVeigh’s new execution date because the “preservation of McVeigh [himself] as ‘evidence’” is crucial to ongoing litigation.
The suit was filed May 11 in U.S. District Court for southern Indiana. It names Harley Lappin, the warden of the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, as well as Indiana state Attorney General Steve Carter, as co-defendants.
Taylor, in an interview with WND, said he believes his suit may have played a small role in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s decision earlier this month to issue a 30-day stay of execution for McVeigh.
Ashcroft said he issued the stay because of revelations by the FBI that the agency failed to hand over 4,000-plus documents to McVeigh’s original defense team years ago.
McVeigh was originally scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Terre Haute facility May 16. Because of Ashcroft’s order, however, McVeigh is now scheduled to die June 11.
Ashcroft has said he would not issue another stay.
“There is still litigation pending, both civil and criminal, as a result of the deaths and damage resulting from the collapse of the Murrah federal building,” the suit claims, according to a copy provided to WND. “What [McVeigh] knows, and, even what is in, or not in, his body, is relevant evidence to the continuing litigation. … To ‘execute’ McVeigh is to destroy evidence needed for the continuing litigation.”
The suit was filed with U.S. District Judge John Tinder. Since being filed, Tinder has ordered Taylor and Justice Department lawyers to respond to the suit by May 30, the Texas attorney said.
“Basically, we have to show why the [federal] court [in Indiana] has jurisdiction in this case,” Taylor said, adding that he filed the suit in Indiana because that’s where McVeigh is being held.
The suit charges that the death sentence imposed against McVeigh “should be indefinitely postponed” because it “is void and unenforceable” under the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment.
The amendment says, in part, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law. …”
As an example, Taylor said, the lawsuit notes that suspects arrested in connection with the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York City were tried in New York state. Also, the suit referenced a church bombing in Alabama, which was tried in that state.
Both cases were mentioned because of their similarities to Oklahoma City. Both were domestic terrorism cases, Taylor noted.
The suit also said that the charge of murder leveled against McVeigh is not a charge the federal government can legally bring against a suspect alleged to have committed a crime in a state.
“The language in the indictment alleging ‘murder’ is not ‘admissible evidence of law’ for any matter arising from the collapse of the Murrah Federal Building,” the suit said. “Therefore, that pleading does not activate Article III subject matter jurisdiction, and those charges in the indictment are void on their face. Thus, the United States District Court had no authority to try the ‘murder’ charges, and the adjudication of guilt and the order issuing the death penalty are void and unenforceable.”
Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution says: “The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed. …”
“Further,” the suit alleges, “no criminal matter – not even treason – can be tried by a court, whether a State or a United States trial court, outside the state in which those acts occurred. Yet the cases against McVeigh were transferred across the Oklahoma state line, namely to Denver, Colorado. …”
“The ‘murder’ charges in the indictment were based on language that is not the law of the United States,” Taylor said. “If such language is law, it can only be law in the District of Columbia” – the only place where Congress and the federal judiciary have full control, since it is not a state.
“The court has already overruled our request for a temporary restraining order,” Taylor told WorldNetDaily, “but only because, I believe, the attorney general has already issued a temporary stay of execution.”
But, he added, “unless we can do something even if ex-parte right now, there’s going to be irreparable harm to some party or other.”
Taylor also intimated that because of ongoing questions raised about whether or not McVeigh truly acted alone in the bombing, his execution should continue to be delayed until all the facts are known – facts which could come out during ongoing litigation.
Taylor said he did not know if or when Judge Tinder would agree to hear the suit.