ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Oklahoma City bombing trial is first tonight. The prosecution continues to lay out its case against Timothy McVeigh. The key witness for the government yesterday and today was the defendant's sister, Jennifer McVeigh, a 23-year-old New York College student who was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony. We get more on this and other developments in the trial from "Time" Magazine correspondent Patrick Cole, who has been covering this story since the bombing.
Thanks for being with us, Patrick. Jennifer McVeigh was considered a key prosecution witness. Describe her testimony for us.
PATRICK COLE, Time Magazine: Well, I think her testimony was a case of walking a tightrope. I think this is a key here. You know, she is Timothy McVeigh's sister. They still like each other. They were talking to each other before he was arrested, but at the same time, the government was successful in getting her to testify against her brother. And I think during this, if you were in the courtroom, you could see that she was walking a fine line. On one hand, she had made a promise to the government to cooperate, to tell them what had transpired between her and her brother in the days before the bombing, but also she wanted--you could see that she wanted to also help her brother out in a sense. And I think that came out quite clear in the testimony.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What were some of the things she said about what did happen between her brother and herself?
PATRICK COLE: She said that basically, that they had talked about Waco; that he had expressed a lot of his anti-government angst to her; and she also--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He was very upset about what had happened in Waco, the FBI raid?
PATRICK COLE: Yes. He was very, very upset. He thought that they were--they were basically--had burned and gassed women and children and babies, and that's what he told her. He also showed her a videotape called "Waco: 51 Days." And--but she didn't say much about what--what they had talked about in terms of substance. She said that Tim had talked about this, vented his anger, but they didn't really get into any intense discussions about Waco and what they shared in common in terms of their anti-government feelings, at least that's what she said.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And didn't she show them or talk about a letter which she'd burned?
PATRICK COLE: Yes. She said that she had burned some letters of Tim's because once his name got out, once he was named as a suspect, she figured that the government would come after her to question her. So--and Tim had given her some instructions to get rid of certain documents if the government did come. And she did confess that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Was it important that she identified his handwriting on some key documents? Was that an important part of the case, of their evidence?
PATRICK COLE: Exactly. I mean, I think, you know, under the federal rules of evidence a handwriting expert is not necessarily definitive, so I think they wanted to corroborate that. And she cooperated in identifying several documents, some of them which we could not see because they weren't introduced into evidence, but many of them were--were identified by Jennifer. So she did cooperate in that matter.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And then what happened in the cross-examination?
PATRICK COLE: In the cross-examination I think this was the defense--the defense team's opportunity to try to save face on this because, after all, she did give some very, very damaging information about Timothy's state of mind; however, I think Stephen Jones and his defense team, particularly Rob Nye, who is co-counsel, he--he had Jennifer outline exactly what the FBI had done to her when she was--when she was interrogated and questioned by the FBI.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what was that?
PATRICK COLE: Exactly what they had done was--when I talked to her back in August of 1995, she told me some of these things--she said that basically they had taken a photo of her off of her refrigerator, and they blew it up and put it in front of her. What she didn't mention in her testimony and I think that she told me was that they had taken victims, pictures of bloody victims from the Murrah Building and held them up in front of her, but in addition to that, they also took portions of the federal law on treason and they held them up in front of her and in handwriting we could see where an FBI agent apparently had written penalty = death. And when Jennifer started relaying this story, recounting this tale of how the government had questioned her, she began crying. And you know, the jury was very involved at that moment, looking at her, and so were some of the onlookers, as well as the reporters. It was a very tense moment.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, Patrick, what's the implication here, that they were basically threatening her with a death sentence if she didn't testify?
PATRICK COLE: Well, I think at the time when she wasn't going to cooperate, they didn't know the extent of her involvement because she wasn't sharing exactly what kind of information Tim had given to her, what she had given to Tim, and so at that point they--I think they were probably assuming that she could have been an accomplice or an accessory. So I think, you know, much in the same way that Michael Fortier might have--much in a way his role might have been--so I think they were--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He's another person who's going to testify but hasn't yet who's currently in prison, an associate of Timothy McVeigh's.
PATRICK COLE: That's correct.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Just briefly, summing up her testimony, she was--they did not get her to say that he told her he was going to do this, right? The most he said was something big is going to happen, is that--that sort of it?
PATRICK COLE: That's right. She said that Tim had told her that something big was going to happen. And I think she also declined to elaborate on, you know, other things that Tim had. For example, he had mentioned that he was in a car wreck and had about a thousand pounds of explosives in the car, and he fled the car, and when Beth Wilkinson, the prosecutor, was questioning her about this, Beth asked her, well, you know, did he tell you what they were going to be used for, and she said, "No, he didn't tell me, and I didn't ask, because maybe I think I just didn't want to know." And so she didn't really go further and talk about that. And so I think the key here to--as to sum up what happened is, you know, she was really walking a fine line. She wanted to fulfill her obligation, which she was obligated to do as a witness for the prosecution because she was given immunity. But at the same time she wanted to help out her brother. And today, when she walked into court, she sat down; she was, you know, looking--looking, you know, more up scale than she usually does, but then she looked at Tim and she smiled. And you could see exactly what was going on here; that she was trying to do two jobs at once.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Patrick Cole, thanks very much.