Bowing to the wishes of Congress, a judge reversed himself Tuesday and allowed survivors and relatives to watch the Oklahoma City bombing trial even if they plan to testify in a penalty phase.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch had barred survivors and victims’ relatives who want to testify at a possible death-penalty sentencing hearing or provide statements about the bombing’s impact on their lives.
But in his reversal, Matsch said it is clear under a law signed Thursday by President Clinton that Congress intended those victims to be allowed to attend the trial of Timothy McVeigh, which begins next week.
“I’m elated,” said Delores Watson, whose grandson, P.J. Allen, was severely injured in the blast. “The more I know about the trial helps me with the healing process.”
Later Tuesday, McVeigh’s lawyers continued to pursue a trial delay, this time telling a federal appeals court that prosecutors have refused to hand over crucial evidence.
Prosecutors wouldn’t comment but Matsch has denied many similar requests, saying it’s not the duty of the government to provide Jones with a defense.
In his ruling, Matsch also said any further debate on the issue would delay the trial. The judge also said he could protect McVeigh’s rights by allowing victims to be questioned outside the jury’s presence.