A federal judge moved the Oklahoma City bombing trial to Denver on Tuesday, quashing the hopes of Oklahomans who wanted to attend and participate in the proceedings as a “necessary last step on the road to recovery.”
In a ruling met with mixed emotions, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who is from Denver, said defendants Timothy James McVeigh and Terry Lynn Nichols have been “demonized” by a barrage of publicity and could not get a fair trial in Oklahoma.
“This court finds and concludes that there is so great a prejudice against these two defendants in the state of Oklahoma that they cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial at any place … in that state,” the judge wrote.
Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating said Matsch made a “terrible, unfortunate decision,” but defense attorneys praised the move.
Ten months ago, on April 19, a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, leaving 169 people dead and more than 500 injured.
McVeigh and Nichols, the only two suspects in custody, have been charged with murder and conspiracy.
Keith Coverdale, whose sons Aaron and Elijah died in the blast, said changing the venue makes no sense because media coverage has been intense nationwide.
In a statement from Washington, the Justice Department said it did not agree with Matsch’s decision. “The United States believes that a fair trial of this case could have been had in Oklahoma,” the statement said.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHEN TO START? Prosecutors who are seeking the death penalty for both defendants said they will be ready for trial by May, while McVeigh’s defense team suggested September, sometime after Labor Day.