News

Pennsylvania has fewest number of inmates on death row in nearly 25 years

September 6, 2017 More than a dozen inmates in Pennsylvania have been removed from death row this year, leaving the commonwealth with the fewest under a death sentence in nearly a quarter-century


Pa. high court orders new death penalty hearing in ’84 murder of Germantown deacon

August 22, 2017 In a case that reignited scrutiny of Pennsylvania’s death penalty and the workings of the state’s highest court, an evenly divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a new death penalty hearing for Terrance Williams, convicted and condemned in the 1984 slaying of Germantown church deacon Amos Norwood


Innocent man who survived 22 years on Pennsylvania death row speaks out

June 29, 2017 An innocent man who survived 22 years in solitary confinement on death row has spoken out about living among some of America’s most dangerous criminals.


Capital punishment too costly to justify

June 3, 2017 Centre County voters favored a new DA, Bernie Cantorna, in the recent primary election. I can find no record of his position on capital punishment.


Three Murders in Philadelphia

May 12, 2017 In the early 1990s, the police arrested three men for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s taken more than 25 years for justice to be served.


Arkansas’s Execution Spree and the Problems with Capital Punishment

April 25, 2017 Over the past few weeks, the state of Arkansas has been trying to obtain warrants to execute eight death row inmates before the end of the month. The deadline was set in order to use the state’s supply of lethal injection drug midazolam before it is set to expire at the end of the month.


Refusing to Make a Monster out of God: Shane Claiborne on the Death Penalty

April 19, 2017 Activists campaigning to abolish the death penalty recently confronted a new and urgent occasion for their efforts, when the state of Arkansas announced it would execute eight death-row inmates in a ten-day period because its store of chemicals for lethal injection was about to expire.


Supports repeal of death penalty

March 14, 2017 State Rep. Chris Rabb, of Philadelphia, has confirmed the rumor that he is planning to introduce a bill to repeal Pennsylvania’s death penalty law. I fully support his decision. I believe abolition of our capital punishment system is long overdue


Commentary: Next DA must end capital punishment in Philly

March 7, 2017 Companion reports released on March 7 by the National Registry of Exonerations found record numbers of exonerations and wrongful convictions involving official misconduct in 2016, and striking evidence of racial bias both in the wrongful convictions themselves and in the time it took the judicial process to exonerate the wrongfully incarcerated


Commentary: Next DA must end capital punishment in Philly

February 22, 2017 With Seth Williams’ decision not to seek a third term as district attorney, Philadelphia now has a chance to join the rest of the Northeast in moving forward without the death penalty…


Wake up call

February 21, 2017 At 6:19 a.m. Saturday morning ACCR staff got the call: 38 years, 3 months and 4 days after the 14-year-old Ricky Olds went to prison for buying a bag of potato chips with the wrong crowd, he was going home a free man. rickyfree If you don’t believe the part about the potato chips, read VICE: The 14-Year-Old Who Grew Up In Prison…


Human Rights Hero: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

Since the year 2000, six governors have suspended executions in their states. Facing sometimes extraordinary dissent from their constituents and political opponents, they decided to follow this courageous course because they could not ignore the facts, and they could not let a broken capital punishment system continue to devastate the lives of those in its wake. …


More needs to be done to fix flawed system

February 20, 2017 Most people probably don’t associate Valentine’s Day with the death penalty, but i do…


Pa. should permanently end the flawed and costly death penalty

February 13, 2017 is the second anniversary of Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on executions. The moratorium was wise because it halted a system that is filled with flaws…


Study on Pa. death penalty three years overdue

January 3, 2017 Already three years behind schedule, a committee studying flaws in Pennsylvania’s death penalty is still a long way away from issuing its much-anticipated report…..


Study on Pa. death penalty three years overdue

December 22, 2016 A long-anticipated bipartisan commission report examining use of the death penalty in Pennsylvania — as well as viable alternatives and potential systemic bias of capital punishment in the state — has once again missed a deadline….


Troubling implications

October 22, 2016 Last Thursday, a Centre County court ordered Kevin Siehl to be released from prison. Judge David Grine dismissed the murder charges against Siehl in part because prosecutors withheld evidence of his innocence…


Pennsylvania’s Shame

October 12, 2016 In 1991, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office indicted a 20-year-old black man named Anthony Wright on a charge of capital murder. The alleged crime was heinous. ……


Support for death penalty lowest in more than four decades

September 29, 2016 As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the first of two death penalty cases in this year’s term, the share of Americans who support the death penalty for people convicted of murder is now at its lowest point in more than four decades……


Recent court ruling in James Dennis case shows why Pa. should abolish death penalty: PennLive letters

September 11, 2016 On Aug. 24, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of James A. Dennis. Dennis was convicted and sentenced to death over two decades ago for killing a high school student in Philadelphia. But there was more to the story…..


Group: Court Ruling Proof of Death-Penalty Reform Need

August 26, 2016 A recent court ruling that a man on death row was denied a fair trial is yet another sign that the state’s death penalty should be abolished, according to Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (PADP)…


Letters: Ruling points to flaws in death penalty

August 26, 2016 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit showed us that the death penalty is a flawed system (“New trial ordered in 1991 slaying,” Wednesday)….


More evidence for Pa. to abolish death penalty | Letter

August 25, 2016 Justice has finally come for James “Jimmy” Dennis. Twenty-four years ago, Dennis was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 17-year-old Chedell Williams. But the jury wasn’t presented with all the facts of the case…


Delaware Supreme Court Rules State’s Death Penalty Unconstitutional

August 2, 2016 Delaware’s rules for imposing the death penalty are unconstitutional, the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, a decision that could mean an effective end to capital punishment in Delaware….


The Sordid Ways Death-Penalty States Obtain Execution Drugs

August 2, 2016 One afternoon, Donnie Calhoun, owner of Calhoun Compounding Pharmacy in Anniston, Alabama—”Compounding for Life’s Problems”—came back from a meeting to find a strange request from the Alabama Department of Corrections. The girl who’d answered the phone had written the question down on a notepad: Did he want to make a lethal-injection drug that would be used to carry out an execution?…


Rep. Perry’s judgment is questioned (letter)

July 22, 2016 U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, is oh-so-upset that anyone would call him on his usual vote against any common sense form of gun control (published July 17). He believes this latest gun control bill was “hastily done.”…


Connecticut Court Reaffirms Ruling Abolishing Death Penalty

August 25, 2016 The Connecticut Supreme Court has reaffirmed its decision that Connecticut’s abolition of the death penalty must also apply to those already convicted of a capital felony…


Kentucky Court Vacates Murder Convictions of Two Men Based on New DNA and Evidence of Police Fabrication and Misconduct

July 13, 2016 A Circuit Court in Meade County, Kentucky, today reversed the 1995 murder convictions of Garr Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Dewayne Clark based on new DNA and other evidence pointing to their innocence. The two men have served more than 20 years of a life sentence for the crime…


Death penalty demands strong defenders (editorial)

July 13, 2016 In 1995, the Clearfield County man went on a rampage in four Pennsylvania counties, killing four people, including one in York County. His crimes were beyond senseless. They were beyond brutal. They were heinous…


Preview: The Execution of Joseph Wood

July 7, 2016 An execution of a man in Arizona with a new cocktail of drugs was supposed to take about 10 minutes. It took almost two hours, the longest execution in U.S. history. Bill Whitaker reports on Sunday, July 10 at 7 p.m. ET/PT…


LETTER: Death penalty is a no-win platform

July 6, 2016 The platform committee of the Democratic National Committee recently added the abolition of the death penalty to the party’s platform. It’s good to see that politicians are now recognizing and labelling the death penalty as the cruel and unusual form of punishment that it is…


Former Philadelphia DA mentioned prominently in new report on death penalty

July 3, 2016 The Fair Punishment Project says five prosecutors have obtained a combined 440 death sentences since capital punishment was reinstated…


LETTER: Death penalty is a no-win platform

July 1, 2016 The platform committee of the Democratic National Committee recently added the abolition of the death penalty to the party’s platform. It’s good to see that politicians are now recognizing and labelling the death penalty as the cruel and unusual form of punishment that it is…


Commentary: Revival of the death penalty has been a failure

July 2, 2016 Forty years ago, on July 2, 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court put its imprimatur on capital punishment in the case of Gregg v. Georgia. This was a surprising development. Only four years earlier, the court had struck down death-penalty laws across the country, declaring the death penalty “cruel and unusual in the same way as being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual.”…


Report highlights Lynne Abraham as one of America’s deadliest prosecutors

June 30, 2016 A new report from researchers at Harvard University highlights former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham’s frequent pursuit of the death penalty in cases while in office…


Penn State researchers analyze death penalty findings

June 26, 2016 Penn State researchers studying whether racial bias affects the imposition of the death penalty have begun crunching the data, a move signaling the end of a four-year saga of waiting on a state report that has officially halted executions in the state……


Inequality still present in our legal system

June 26, 2016 In late May, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 7-1 decision that Georgia prosecutors violated the Constitution by intentionally eliminating all African- American jurors from the trial of Timothy Tyrone Foster, an African-American death row inmate…


Death penalty fosters revenge, not justice, pope says

GettyImages-142401845June 21, 2016 VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Use of the death penalty is an unacceptable practice that sows vengeance and does not bring justice to the victims of crime, Pope Francis said..


Executing Justice: The discretionary nature of the death penalty in Pennsylvania

June 20, 2016 Fewer than 2 percent of Pennsylvania’s roughly 25,000 homicides the past four decades have resulted in a death sentence, a Reading Eagle examination has found…..


Executing Justice: A look at the cost of Pennsylvania’s death penalty

June 19, 2016 Pennsylvania’s death penalty system since 1978 has produced three executions at a stunning cost: $272 million each, for a total of $816 million, according to a Reading Eagle analysis….


U.S. Supreme Court: Castille should have recused himself from Pa. death-row case

phillydotcom-default-logoJune 11, 2016 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille was wrong to participate in an appeal from a death-row inmate whose prosecution he oversaw nearly three decades before…


The U.S. Supreme Court made the right call in Pa. death row case: John L. Micek

June 10, 2016 Any discussion about whether Pennsylvania should have a death penalty is sure to elicit strong reactions, both for and against….


Pa. prosecutors’ concern over wrongful convictions is long overdue: Andy Hoover

GettyImages-142401845May 11, 2016 Last month, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association released its new guidelines on witness interviews and photo lineups to prevent wrongful convictions.


Supreme Court case yet another reminder of the danger of prosecutors as judges

GettyImages-142401845March 11, 2016 Terry Williams, a boy who killed two men who had sexually abused him, is in a state of flux right now, technically on death row but momentarily safe due to the Pennsylvania governor’s moratorium on the death penalty. Ronald Castille was the Philadelphia DA during Williams’ original trial who approved his death penalty charge. Castille was also the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in late 2014, and overruled a lower court’s ruling that Williams was entitled to a new hearing. The fact that Castille had been both prosecutor and judge in the case became its own case of contention and was argued in front of the Supreme Court last week in Williams v. Pennsylvania.


Pa. death penalty system denies due process | Letter

lehighvalleyMarch 4, 2016 Regardless of one’s personal viewpoints on capital punishment, any reasonable citizen will agree that it would be wrong to execute someone who has been denied a fair legal defense.


Williams v. Pennsylvania at the US Supreme Court

unnamedFebruary 29, 2016 This morning, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case that goes to the very heart of the issue of fairness. The question in Williams v. Pennsylvania is whether a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, who was the District Attorney at the time a case was prosecuted and personally approved seeking the death penalty, should recuse himself when it came up on appeal.


U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether Pa. justice had conflict in death penalty case

penn-liveFebruary 28, 2016 PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania death row inmate has a simple challenge for the U.S. Supreme Court: The same person shouldn’t be both his prosecutor and his judge.


Castille erred in reviewing death-penalty case

phillytrib_logo_415February 23, 2016 The decision to seek the death penalty is one of the most profound responsibilities entrusted to any district attorney. Seeking a punishment that ends the life of a human being, even when that person is accused of having committed murder, is a solemn and sobering decision that cannot be taken lightly. Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/thinktank/Castille-erred-in-reviewing-death-penalty-case.html#xQFFAzK3SZipTIGq.99


Will the U.S. Supreme Court have to clean up a mess that Pa’s Supreme Court created? Spero T. Lappas

penn-liveFebruary 22, 2016 America’s founding fathers were passionate about fairness. The Declaration of Independence is, after all, largely a complaint that the colonies were not being treated fairly by the British crown and a protest that they would not sit still for it.


Andrew Keck: Ending death penalty is virtuous thing to do

morning-callFebruary 18, 2016 Ending capital punishment in Pennsylvania would be a virtuous action. Each of us aspires to be virtuous. Virtue requires high moral standards. It is the bedrock foundation of popular adages like “turn the other cheek” and “be the bigger person.” It is the principle we teach our children and that guides our conscience.


Death penalty unfair, unjust

daily-timesFebruary 2, 2016 The death penalty supposedly eliminates serious criminals, yet it’s killing our society. Capital punishment is unique to America and we should be ashamed to be unique in this way.


Death penalty on decline in US

national-catholic-reporterJanuary 9, 2016 The U.S. saw a marked decline in the use of the death penalty, recording in 2015 the “fewest executions, fewest death sentences, and fewest states employing the death penalty in decades,” according to a year-end report from an anti-death-penalty group.


Death Penalty Receives Another Blow, This Time In Pennsylvania

unnamedJanuary 5, 2016 The death penalty has come under fire recently in state courts. Now a recent case out of Pennsylvania highlights a possible role for state executives in hastening the death penalty’s demise.


Supreme Court, in Recusal Case, May Find Itself Looking Inward

nyt-logo-185x26January 4, 2016 WASHINGTON — Not long after he took office as Philadelphia’s district attorney in 1986, Ronald D. Castille made a handwritten note on a subordinate’s memorandum. “Approved to proceed on the death penalty,” Mr. Castille wrote, in neat cursive script, authorizing prosecutors to seek the execution of a young murderer named Terrance Williams.


State supreme court upholds death penalty moratorium

phillytrib_logo_415December 31, 2015 The legal wrestling over the death penalty in Pennsylvania seems to be on hold, for now, with the state Supreme Court upholding Gov. Tom Wolf’s temporary moratorium on executions until a review of the death penalty system has been concluded.


Death-penalty reprieve is warranted

phillydotcom-default-logoDecember 31, 2015 The Jewish Social Policy Action Network applauds the unanimous decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholding Gov. Wolf’s grant of a reprieve to death-row inmate Terrance Williams (“Court backs Wolf in Phila. death penalty case,” Dec. 22).


Rape victim, murderer, death row inmate: Terry Williams and the corrupt justice of Pennsylvania

daily_kosDecember 30, 2015 Terry Williams was six years old the first time he was raped by an 11-year-old boy who lived in the neighborhood. He was not much older when he was sodomized again by another boy he knew. He was in middle school when it happened a third time. One of his teachers went out of his way to develop a close relationship with the boy, worked hard to build up his trust. Eventually, that same teacher began to regularly sexually abuse him. From there, things only got worse.


Philadelphia death penalty case gets February Supreme Court date

constituition dailyDecember 27, 2015 In October 2015, Terrance Williams saw the Supreme Court accepted an appeal on Eighth and 14th Amendment ground in an appeals process that goes back to 2012. At the time, Williams’ defense wanted then-Pennsylvania Supreme Court chief justice Ron Castille recused from his appeals case, since Castille had been the Philadelphia district attorney when Williams was convicted in 1986 for killing another Philadelphia man, Amos Norwood.


Court right on reprieve

the-times-tribuneDecember 27, 2015 When the state Supreme Court found last week that Gov. Tom Wolf had not exceeded his authority in a death penalty reprieve, it struck a blow for sound public policy.


PA Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Gov.’s Authority to Postpone Executions

npqheader1170December 24, 2015 NPQ reported this past summer on the consequences and upshot of the Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of the sedative midazolam in the execution drug cocktail despite alarming cases in Oklahoma and Arizona where inmates took hours to die.


Editorial: It is time to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania

berksDecember 17, 2015 Capital punishment is expensive, unevenly administered and irreversible.


Victim can’t forget, but he forgives

berksDecember 17, 2015 Larry “RJ” Bobish Jr. can recount in horrifying detail the grisly events 13 years ago that left his parents and pregnant sister dead.


Former death row inmate describes his ordeal

berksDecember 16, 2015 Harold C. Wilson rose to his feet to hear a Philadelphia jury sentence him to death three times for the hatchet and butcher-knife murders of three people in 1988.


Attorney fights for his clients’ lives

reading-eagleDecember 14, 2015 In a 25-year career that started in the Berks County district attorney’s office, Kirwan has represented five men in capital cases from Berks, Lancaster and Schuylkill counties.


DA supports death penalty, but not adamantly

reading-eagleDecember 14, 2015 Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams slipped into Judge Scott D. Keller’s courtroom to hear how the case was progressing.


Jurors in capital cases face serious challenges

reading-eagleDecember 14, 2015 The jurors who sat through eight days of testimony this summer in a capital trial for three homicides voted 12 times before reaching a sentencing decision.


Widow of slain policeman adamant in support of death penalty

reading-eagleDecember 13, 2015 Hours before, Tricia Wertz had packed for a weekend getaway, a family beach trip planned with friends from the police department. Sometime after 2 a.m., she dragged herself out of bed to answer the doorbell.


Cop killer describes harsh conditions on death row

reading-eagleDecember 13, 2015 It’s difficult to sleep on death row. Not because of the sequence of events that led a person there or a nagging conscience, but because the lights never really go out.


Is the death penalty a dying sentence?

reading-eagleDecember 13, 2015 Take Nebraska’s conservative legislature, which defied a governor’s veto and abolished capital punishment only to have a petition drive later suspend the ban until a referendum next year.


Defenders Say Castille Tainted Death-Penalty Ruling

LegalIntelligencerDecember 1, 2015 In a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys for death-row inmate Terrance Williams say Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille should not have been involved in Williams’ appeals, and that his presence on the bench affected the court’s judgment as a whole


Supreme Court Faces Decisions On Where To Go Next With The Death Penalty

buzzfeed-newsNovember 30, 2015 While some inmates and lawyers are asking the justices to take on the constitutionality of executions, other cases present more subtle questions about process.


When a Kid Kills His Longtime Abuser, Who’s the Victim?

mother-jonesNovember 30, 2015 You could hardly open a Pennsylvania newspaper in 2012 without running into a story about the prosecution of sexual predators or their enablers. The case of Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State football coach convicted of abusing 10 boys, was all over the headlines


Is the end near for capital punishment?

alice-echoNovember 20, 2015 A dissent written more than a half-century ago in Rudolph v. Alabama may have been a precursor to striking down the death penalty.


Forensic Pseudoscience

chemistry bottles with liquid insideNovember 16, 2015 This past April, the FBI made an admission that was nothing short of catastrophic for the field of forensic science. In an unprecedented display of repentance, the Bureau announced that, for years, the hair analysis testimony it had used to investigate criminal suspects was severely and hopelessly flawed.


Evangelical Support for Death Penalty Comes to an End After Decades

USA, Texas, Walls Unit Prison, cell on 'Death Row' October 27, 2015 The National Association of Evangelicals recently issued a new resolution on capital punishment recognizing Christians who work to abolish the death penalty


Ahead of Pope Francis’ visit, clerics, activists lobby and pray for end to capital punishment

20150917_inq_ppenalty17z-aSeptember 15, 2015 Hoping to gain the attention of Pope Francis, activists and religious leaders gathered at an East Germantown church Wednesday to pray for criminal justice reform and the abolition of capital punishment in this country


Why Philly is the Perfect Place for the Pope to Denounce the Death Penalty

Pope Francis looks on during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on September 9, 2015. In a letter to believers on September 8, the Argentinian pontiff said annulments would require approval by only one church tribunal, rather than two as currently. A streamlined procedure is to be introduced for the most straightforward cases and access to hearings will not cost anything, the letter states. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) September 15, 2015 I guess there is no bad place to call for an end to execution. But Philadelphia, the City of Love, is a really divine place for his Holiness to denounce death


Gov. Wolf made the right call on death penalty moratorium: Robert Cindrich

penn-liveSeptember 3, 2015 By  Robert Cindrich When Gov. Tom Wolf put executions on hold in Pennsylvania, I joined many of my colleagues in publicly supporting this reasonable and appropriate action


FBI: We Gave Flawed Testimony in 6 Pennsylvania Death Row Cases

phillydotcom-default-logoApril 22, 2015 Part of an ongoing review of the agency’s use of “microscopic hair comparison analysis” which has affected 90 percent of trials examined, including at least 29 total in the state


FBI: We Gave Flawed Testimony in 6 Pennsylvania Death Row Cases

March 23, 2015 A poll released today shows that 50% of Pennsylvanians support Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to temporarily pause executions, while only 44% oppose the decision and 5% are unsure how they feel. The poll also revealed that 54% of Pennsylvanians prefer some version of a life in prison sentence over the death penalty.


Lack of fairness undermines justice – even for murderers

phillydotcom-default-logoJanuary 17, 2014 HAROLD MURRAY IV, 36, is getting another shot at justice. Marcus Perez, 43, is waiting for his. Murray was convicted in a 2005 revenge-murder in which the victim and her fetus died. He was sentenced to death for each. One problem: Defendants can’t receive the death penalty in Pennsylvania for the death of a fetus, something the Montgomery County prosecutor, the defense attorney and the judge apparently didn’t know


Spero Lappas on WITF Smart Talk Radio

witf50September 24, 2012 Radio Smart Talk for Monday, September 24th: Convicted murderer Terrance “Terry” Williams is the first man set to be executed in Pennsylvania in thirteen years. But his lawyers are trying to save the 46-year-old man’s life just ahead of his October 3rd execution date


The Patriot-News Op Ed Pennsylvania Should End the Death Penalty

penn-liveJanuary 20, 2011 Last week, outgoing Gov. Ed Rendell asked the Legislature to examine the state’s death penalty with an eye to fix it or abolish it. This half-step toward compassion would have been more convincing if he had not moments before signed executive orders mandating the executions of six of his fellow citizens


Group says it has new evidence in case of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for arson in Texas

fox-newsFebruary 28, 2014 The Innocence Project argued Friday that newly discovered documents undermine the credibility of a key witness against a Texas man executed for the deaths of his three children based in part on arson evidence that has since been deemed faulty


One for 10

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John Oliver

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West Memphis Three

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Sister Helen on Dobie Gillis Williams


ABC’s “World News Tonight” on Carlos DeLuna


“70 x 7 – The Forgiveness Equation”


Georgia Execution Involves Racially Biased and Unprepared Defense Lawyer


“This World: Lethal Solutions”


Hardball: Rick Perry Execution Cover-Up


MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show on Todd Willingham and Rick Perry’s Cover Up


The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act

June 2002 – The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996 was drafted, enacted, and signed in an atmosphere of anger and fear. The legislation, which includes substantial cutbacks in the federal habeas corpus remedy, was Congress’s response to the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing.