August 15, 1996 in Nation/World

Key Incriminating Evidence Is Allowed In Bombing Trial

Scripps-Mcclatchy
 

Jurors in the Oklahoma City bombing trial will hear key evidence tying Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to the blast that killed 168 people.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch of Denver ruled Wednesday that Nichols’ statements, McVeigh’s clothing and mail and items from Nichols’ house are admissible.

But Matsch barred Nichols’ statements linking McVeigh to the bombing from being used against McVeigh.

The judge’s 66-page ruling was a milestone in proceedings against McVeigh and Nichols, who will be tried in Denver. No date has been set. Earlier this year, Matsch ruled that a fair jury couldn’t be seated in Oklahoma.

The judge ruled that defense lawyers failed to prove that the government illegally had obtained the incriminating evidence against the two men.

The evidence Matsch will allow jurors to hear includes:

Clothes McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested on a traffic charge 90 minutes after the bombing. FBI scientists allegedly found explosives residue in the clothes.

Items seized from Nichols’ home, including plastic barrels like those said to have been used to make the bomb, weapons, ammunition and anti-government literature.

Mail from McVeigh’s rented mailbox in Arizona.

Nichols’ statements that he had picked up McVeigh in Oklahoma City three days before the bombing, loaned McVeigh his truck the day before the blast and removed a sleeping bag, rifle and rucksack from McVeigh’s rented storage unit the day after. Those statements can be used as evidence against Nichols but not against McVeigh.

Chief prosecutor Joseph Hartzler said Matsch “found that there were no signs of coercion, misrepresentation or deliberate deception” by the government.

But Nichols’ lawyers noted that Matsch criticized some government behavior.

“Matsch’s opinion is by no means an endorsement of the FBI’s tactics,” they said.

The judge frowned on the FBI’s treatment of Nichols’ young wife, Marife. Although she repeatedly asked to be allowed to return to her native Philippines after her husband’s arrest, the FBI kept her in motels for weeks while questioning her and gaining her consent to repeated searches of the family home and car.


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