In the courtroom, survivors and relatives could barely control their anger Thursday when they heard an attorney for Timothy McVeigh say all Americans bear some responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing.
“I couldn’t believe he said that,” said Charles Tomlin, who lost his grown son, Rick, in the blast. “I just can’t see where we had any part in it.”
At issue was defense attorney Richard Burr’s closing argument, when he claimed that most Americans just stood by during the deadly federal sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge. Burr suggested McVeigh stood up to that perceived tyranny, even though the bombing was a misguided way to vent his anger.
“Aren’t we all in some way implicated in this crime?” Burr asked.
Later, lead defense attorney Stephen Jones told jurors the bombing arose out of a lack of accountability for the Waco and Ruby Ridge raids.
“They hurt, so you hurt. They died, so you died. They were innocent, you are innocent. What a terrible price for a failure to account,” Jones said.
“Everybody in the courtroom knew, when you looked at them, you could tell they were mad at Jones for saying that,” Tomlin said.
“Today, everybody wants to blame everybody else’s problems. And it isn’t working that way,” Tomlin said. “The Waco deal? They gave them 52 days to come out or do something. My son didn’t even get 52 seconds to come out of the building that McVeigh blew up.”
Marsha Kight, whose grown daughter died in the federal building’s credit union, said she didn’t believe what happened in Waco justified McVeigh’s actions “in any way, shape or form. … I believe he had that kind of mind-set before Waco ever occurred.”
In Oklahoma City, where 75 bombing survivors and victims relatives watched the penalty phase summations on a closed-circuit telecast, about 15 came out afterward to protest the defense arguments.
“Some of them had to leave because they could not take what they had to say,” said Nancy Shaw, who was seriously injured in the bombing. “It was that upsetting to some. I had to bite my tongue.”