The inaugural edition of Oklahoma Super Lawyers magazine in 2006 featured an auspicious attorney: Stephen Jones of Jones, Otjen & Davis in Enik, Okla.-the man who defended Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Jones gave us an in-depth look at the closely watched case-and into the thought process of a terrorist. An excerpt:
Ten years ago, Jones was at the center of one of the most intense media blitzes in American history. From May 1995 to September 1997, he served as chief defense counsel to Timothy McVeigh, who was accused, and later convicted, of triggering the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6.
A few days after the explosion, U.S. District Judge David Russell asked Jones if he would defend McVeigh, who had been charged with the crime. Jones thought it over, discussed it with his family and law partners, and agreed. The decision changed his life. A small-town lawyer litigating a mix of smalltown stuff – divorces, wills, DUIs, estate planning – in addition to a few capital crimes and representing Fortune 500 companies, he suddenly found himself thrust into the middle of a national media frenzy. Friends and colleagues wondered why he decided to subject himself to such an ordeal.
He took the job, he says, because he believes it is the constitutional responsibility of an attorney to take on controversial cases. “As a member of the Oklahoma Bar, I believed in our obligation to defend the unpopular and the indigent,” he says, “even when it came to someone accused of such a barbarous crime as Timothy McVeigh.”