April 11 1999 - A woman who served on a jury that imposed the death penalty in an Oklahoma City murder case and an admitted witch wrapped up the ninth day of jury selection in the Oklahoma City bombing trial Thursday.
"If I am asked to serve on the jury, I will do my civic duty and I will serve," Juror 455 told Judge Richard Matsch late Thursday. But, "I had to impose the death sentence in an Oklahoma City case 15 to 17 years ago... I think once in a lifetime is enough."
Her husband was in the Air Force and then a federal government employee in Oklahoma City for 17 years before he retired and moved to Denver 17 years ago. Juror 455 said she still has family and friends in Oklahoma City, but that and the fact that her husband is a former federal employee have nothing to do with her reluctance to serve on the jury for the trial of Timothy McVeigh.
The woman said she has spent almost two decades trying to erase from her mind the extremely difficult decision she had to make as a juror in the murder-rape trial in Oklahoma City. "I worked so hard to put that out of my mind," she said. "I don't remember the man's name now." She said she hadn't followed that case and doesn't know if the rapist ever was put to death.
Matsch expressed understanding for Juror 455's feelings about having to go through a second death penalty trial, but asked her to return Friday morning for further questioning by trial attorneys.
Earlier in the afternoon, Juror 97 got the attention of courtroom spectators by disclosing that her common-law husband commited suicide in 1993. That attention became riveted to the jury box when she said she was a member of Wicca, which she described as a peaceful religion, believing in "understanding, peace with the earth, a joy and happiness within." The judge gently inquired if members of that religion sometimes are referred to as witches.
"We do consider ourselves witches," Juror 97 said. "But, that's only through traditional terms. "
She raised concerns about responding to violence with violence and uncertainty about whether she could impose the death penalty.
On Thursday morning, two prospective jurors with ties overseas and widely divergent views on the death penalty said they could be fair if seated as jurors.
A Denver-based international airline pilot whose parents fled Austria as Nazism gained strength there said he was strongly opposed to the death penalty.
The other juror, whose mother was raised in Ecuador and father is from India, said she would be "comfortable" imposing the death penalty in the right circumstances.
The woman, a longtime music teacher, said that she does not find it offensive for the government to take a life. She said that where someone sets out to deliberately and maliciously murder someone, she believes the death penalty is "an appropriate action to take." On the other hand, the pilot said he strongly questions the necessity of the death penalty.
"Who am I to take another's life?" he said. "Hard labor and no parole seem like a death penalty to me." But he said his feelings about the death penalty are tempered by the terrible destruction that terrorism can cause. Without going into detail, he said that a friend had been the victim of a terrorist act.
The jury selection process will continue Friday when Juror 455 returns. She is the 56th prosepctive juror to be questioned.