Oklahoma Bombing Suspects Granted Separate Trials

By Ap | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 26, 1996 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma Bombing Suspects Granted Separate Trials


Ap, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A judge granted separate trials Friday to Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

The ruling was a victory for the defendants, who had argued that their constitutional right to a fair trial was in jeopardy because the jury would be unable to weigh the evidence against each man separately.

At issue were incriminating statements that Nichols made about McVeigh to the FBI when he was arrested two days after the bombing, which occurred on April 19, 1995. During his nine-hour interrogation, Nichols told the FBI that he and McVeigh were near the building three days before the bombing; that he had lent McVeigh his pickup truck the day before the attack; and that he had cleaned out a storage locker at McVeigh's request the day afterward. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled that as a result of what Nichols told the FBI, McVeigh "will be profoundly prejudiced" by a joint trial. "Each defendant is entitled to a jury's separate and independent evaluat ion of the evidence received against him in any trial, regardless of the number of other persons alleged to have participated in the crimes charged," the judge said. Matsch said McVeigh would be tried first, but he did not say why and did not set a trial date. "We are extremely pleased," said Robert Nigh Jr., McVeigh's attorney. "We feel like the judge's ruling on separate trials increases dramatically Tim McVeigh's chances for receiving a fair trial." Nichols' defense team also praised the decision, saying in a statement that a separate trial will prevent prosecutors from merely relying "on guilt by association and spillover prejudice from the case against McVeigh." Prosecutor Larry Mackey said, "I see no consequence to the potential outcome of the case as a result of today's ruling." Prosecutors had contended that the jurors could sort out the cases if only one trial were held. They also argued that one trial would be more economical and less traumatic for the witnesses, who include survivors of the bombing. Jannie Coverdale, who lost two grandsons in the blast at the Alfred P. …

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