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Attorney General John Ashcroft signaled Tuesday that he will permit the execution of mass murderer Timothy McVeigh to be viewed by survivors on closed-circuit television. "I will do what I can to accommodate the needs of these families," Ashcroft said, shortly before meeting with survivors of the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people. Ashcroft also said that the federal government was considering ways to "minimize" McVeigh's ability to use a televised execution to draw extra attention to himself.
The idea was floated after more than 250 survivors or family members of McVeigh's victims asked to be witnesses at the execution, scheduled for May 16 at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. The Terre Haute facility can accommodate eight survivor witnesses.
It was unclear whether the execution would be televised to a remote facility on the prison grounds or back to a large auditorium in Oklahoma City. A decision on that is expected by week's end.
Televising McVeigh's execution remains a controversial idea, opposed by capital punishment foes and by some of McVeigh's victims. They fear it may provoke sympathy for the convicted killer or provide a forum for him to make unwelcome remarks.
McVeigh himself endorsed televising his execution, in a letter to an Oklahoma City newspaper earlier this year.
Ashcroft said he had considered how to keep a televised execution from becoming a public forum for McVeigh. "There are ways we can implement this to minimize the ability of a convicted terrorist to make his points," he said.
McVeigh, 32, was convicted of detonating the bomb that killed 168 and left more than 500 injured in the worst act of mass murder in American history. In letters to reporters written from prison and in a recently published book, McVeigh suggested that he set the bomb in retaliation for the federal government's April 19, 1993, assault on a religious extremist's compound near Waco, Texas.
Sect leader David Koresh and 73 followers died in that assault.