Attorneys for convicted mass murderer and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh are appealing for a delay in their client’s imminent execution because of documents recently released to them by the FBI. Who is paying the lawyers for their work?
American taxpayers. The federal judges who oversaw the case against McVeigh, first in Oklahoma, then in Denver when the trial was set there, appointed the attorneys both for his defense and appeal. Federal death penalty law requires that a defendant who is unable to pay for counsel be represented by experienced court-appointed attorneys. While there is a professional federal public defender service, this can be supplemented, as it was in McVeigh’s case, by attorneys in private practice who can make themselves available for such appointment. Lawyers representing clients in federal death penalty cases can be paid up to $125 an hour and can also bill the government for research and other expenses connected to the case. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch, who presided over McVeigh’s trial and just turned down his appeal for a stay of execution, sealed the billing records during the trial so prosecutors wouldn’t be tipped off to the leads the defense was following. But Matsch, who had to approve any expense over $300, has now ordered that the cost of the defense be made publicly available.
Former McVeigh defense attorney Stephen Jones has already done his part toward that end. Jones, who traveled at government expense to Israel and Great Britain to confer with bomb experts and the Philippines to track down conspiracy theories, says that McVeigh’s defense cost more than $15 million. The government spent almost $83 million for the cases against McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who was convicted in a separate trial. These figures do not include the costs of the current appeals.
Explainer thanks James R. Manspeaker of the U.S. District Court, District of Colorado.