THE DIVORCED parents of the convicted Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh, have pleaded for his life before the jury which will today begin its deliberations on whether to sentence him to death or to life imprisonment without parole.
McVeigh, who has already been found guilty on 11 charges of murder in connection with the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building, wiped a tear from his eye as his mother, Mrs Mildred Frazier, choked back her own tears as she read a prepared statement.
"He is not the monster he has been portrayed as," Mrs Frazier said. "He is a human being as we all are."
She said she could imagine the pain and suffering of the people of Oklahoma and could understand their anger.
But McVeigh had been a loving son and a happy child growing up.
He had been a son to be proud of and she could not believe he had caused this devastation.
Mrs Frazier was followed by McVeigh's father, William, whom she divorced 11 years ago. He introduced a video on the early life of his son.
It showed McVeigh wearing a Hallowe'en costume and playing with trains he received as Christmas presents.
Asked by a defence lawyer, Mr Richard Burr, to comment on a picture of the smiling father and son arm in arm several years ago, Mr William McVeigh said: "It's a happy Tim. It's the time I remember most of my life."
In reply to other questions, Mr McVeigh said he loved the son facing him in the courtroom just as he loved the son in the picture.
"Do you want him to stay alive?" the defence attorney asked. "Yes," replied Mr MeVeigh.
McVeigh's sister, Jennifer, was in tears as she left the courtroom, saying: "I just want him to live."
While the pleadings of McVeigh's parents are seen as the most effective part of the defence's efforts to save his life, observers say that the testimony of the survivors and the relatives of the victims was even more powerful.
A decision by the jury to sentence McVeigh to death would have to be unanimous. If just one of the 12 asks for life imprisonment, that is what the sentence will be.
Judge Richard Matseh set closing arguments in the sentencing phase of the trial for this morning.
The bomb killed at least 168 people, wounded more than 500 and reduced the landmark federal building to a heap of rubble.