Life Sentence Would Have Been Tougher on McVeigh than Death by Legal Injection, UB Law Professor Contends

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: June 14, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A far worse and more appropriate punishment than execution for Timothy J. McVeigh, who admitted his guilt in the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City's Murrah Federal Building, would have been a life sentence without possibility of parole, says Charles Carr, an adjunct associate professor in the University at Buffalo Law School.

Carr disagrees with many, including friends and families of the 168 victims killed in the bombing who thought justice would be better served if McVeigh were executed.

"After the execution, many voiced disappointment that it was over too quickly and painlessly for McVeigh," Carr points out.

"Sentencing him to a cell for his natural life would have made the punishment far more severe than a relatively painless, lethal injection," Carr adds. "Taking away the freedom to come and go at will and to do all of the things that we on the outside take for granted is worse than a quick, apparently painless death."

Carr notes that McVeigh indicated he preferred execution to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole when he stopped his lawyers from pursuing the appeals process.

"Being incarcerated likely gave him a taste of what life imprisonment would be like," Carr adds. Whether the prison is a maximum- or minimum-security facility, others control inmates' lives.

"It would appear that having control was important, if not essential to McVeigh and loss of that control for the rest of his life would have been a far worse punishment than execution," Carr says.

"In the end, his control ended with his instruction to his attorneys not to pursue further appeals, climbing onto the gurney in the death chamber, calmly allowing attendants to strap him down and unflinchingly waiting without outward signs of remorse for an eternal sleep, a sleep that some may see as letting him off the hook."