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Oklahoma City Bombing Juror Looks Back

Just past the two-year anniversary of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, another horrific anniversary approaches. Oklahoma City residents will never forget April 19, 1995, when a bomb blast tore through the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, killing 168 people and injuring several hundred others.

Police tracked down Timothy McVeigh, a 26-year-old Persian Gulf War veteran and right-wing militia sympathizer. He was put on trial and ultimately put to death.

As a jury in Boston considers the death penalty for another attack on American soil, Here & Now’s Robin Young spoke with Mike Leeper, who was Juror No. 5 in McVeigh’s trial.

“I believe in our system,” Leeper said. “I was proud to be called and asked to be a member of the jury. I wanted to be proud of how we conducted ourselves.”

By the time the group was in the sentencing phase of the trial, Leeper says the jurors had a rapport and a mutual respect.

“Of course it was a heavy burden for us to come to a decision,” he said. “There was a major concern on my part that whatever we walked out of there with would be questioned by the public. We didn’t know whether Mr. McVeigh was a leader or part of a conspiracy against the government. We didn’t know if there was a feeling out there in the public as to pro or con for the death penalty.”

Leeper says he has no advice for the Boston jury deciding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s fate.

“They have to live with what they decide,” he said. “I’m very grateful that I’m not in their shoes.”

Leeper notes that he still keeps in touch with his fellow jurors who are still in the area.

“In certain ways you want to put some distance between the time that you’ve spent in that courtroom,” he said. “However [you] also want to be a champion for how well it can work.”

Correction: The audio for this interview, as well as an earlier version of this online story, misstated the number of people who were killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing. A total of 168 people died, not 165. We regret the error.

Guest

  • Mike Leeper, a Colorado resident who served on the jury that convicted Timothy McVeigh of carrying out the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mike Leeper was Juror No. 5 on the Timothy McVeigh trial. (Courtesy of Mike Leeper)
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Mike Leeper was Juror No. 5 on the Timothy McVeigh trial. (Courtesy of Mike Leeper)