Arrow-right Camera


Judge: Mcveigh Defense Can Raise Lab Issue At Trial

Thu., Feb. 27, 1997

Defense arguments that an FBI lab contaminated evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing will have to wait until the trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch decided that a special hearing scheduled for Monday, which had been sought by the defense, would duplicate the process required to introduce the evidence at trial.

Matsch also denied defense requests for a pretrial hearing on the credibility of three prosecution witnesses.

“There is nothing prejudicial to the defendant in reserving ruling on the admission of the opinions and conclusions to be drawn from the testing until it is offered at trial,” Matsch said.

Stephen Jones, who represents Timothy McVeigh, said he had felt compelled by previous court decisions to ask for the pretrial hearings, and that he actually agreed with the judge’s decision. Now, he’ll be able to keep his strategy secret from the prosecution.

“I think I’d rather just put it on before the jury one time,” Jones said.

Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler wouldn’t comment on the ruling. “We’ll proceed getting ready for trial,” he said.

McVeigh and Terry Nichols are charged with murder, conspiracy and weapons counts in the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

McVeigh is scheduled to stand trial March 31. Nichols’ trial will follow, but a date has not been set.

McVeigh’s attorneys have alleged that some of the evidence tested in the FBI’s lab was contaminated, including clothing McVeigh wore when he was arrested.

A recent federal report criticized procedures used in the lab. Three FBI crime lab supervisors who evaluated evidence in the case have been transferred to other work.

Last week, McVeigh’s attorneys argued that there was enough basis for a pretrial hearing because of the federal report. Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson countered that the defense failed to prove any evidence was contaminated.

Click here to comment on this story »