April 23, 2001 (PITTSBURGH) – A western Pennsylvania man accused of killing two people with a pipe bomb argues that the U.S. Justice Department is seeking the death penalty because he is white.
Joseph P. Minerd, 45, allegedly wanted his girlfriend dead because he thought she had become pregnant by another man. She and her 3-year-old daughter were killed in the bombing and tests later showed that Minerd was the father of her unborn child.
Under the federal death penalty law, U.S. attorneys must get permission from the Attorney General to seek the ultimate sentence, and Janet Reno did so last year in Minerd’s case. Richard Kammen, an Indianapolis lawyer, argues that Minerd was targeted because Reno wanted to “balance the books” to compensate for the large number of capital cases with minority defendants between 1988 and 1995.
On May 16, Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to be put to death at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., in the first federal execution since 1963. Another 20 people are appealing federal death sentences.
In 1994, new federal laws added scores of capital offenses, including using explosives with intent to kill. Before the change, only drug kingpins involved in murder were eligible for the death penalty in federal court.
Minerd allegedly planted a homemade bomb at the Connellsville townshouse where Deana Mitts, 24, lived with her daughter, Kayla. Mitts was eight months pregnant, and prosecutors charge that Minerd was furious because she had refused to get an abortion.