Indiana News

Appealing the death sentence? “On a good day it’s at least a ten year process”

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – The Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute is home to more than 1,000 of the country’s most hardened criminals.

An official with the United States Department of Justice confirms approximately 60 of those inmates await their fate on death row.

“Terre Haute has the only federal execution facility in the country,” said Louis Reeves, National Dean of Criminal Justice at Harrison College.

Perhaps the most infamous to be executed was Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. The American terrorist bombed an Oklahoma City Federal building in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 600 more.

“There was a fear of what could happen.” Reeves recalls his time working at a security company in the early 2000’s. “It was a hyped up time in town, because it kind of thrust the city on a national stage.”

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Once again the city is in the national spotlight. The federal prison is where Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will likely spend his remaining days, but Reeves said, “You could be looking at several years actually,” before Tsarnaev will be sent to Terre Haute.

First, a judge will formally sentence Tsarnaev, that decision is expected sometime in June. Survivors of the bombing will be given a chance to give victim impact statements. Tsarnaev also will be allowed to speak if he chooses. It’s unclear how many victims the judge will allow to make statements.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will then decide where Tsarnaev will be housed, but he could spend years appealing his death sentence.

“On a good day it’s at least a ten year process,” said Reeves.

Reeves continued by saying most likely the appeals process will start immediately. A change-of-venue issue could be one ground for appeal.

“Whether or not the judge should have granted the change of venue in the case and whether there really was a sense of impartiality having the trial in Boston, whereas in the McVeigh trial they moved in out of Oklahoma City,” explained Reeves.

The death penalty was re-instated in 1988, seventy-four people have been sentenced since then only three have been executed.

“The McVeigh it seems like they came up with a sentence and then he was executed in a short period of time that was just simply because he dropped his appeals,” said Reeves.

Reeves continued by saying Terre Haute will fade in and out of the spotlight during as the process runs its course.

“People should recognize Terre Haute is part of that process of delivering fairness and justice.”

Now, 21-year-old Tsarnaev could be the youngest federal inmate on death row.