What was supposed to have been a major coup for defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing trial Friday instead generated only confusion. A key defense witness told a different story about who she saw leaving a Ryder rental truck moments before a bomb blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Daina Bradley, a woman who lost several close family members and a leg in the bombing, gave a rambling, often disjointed tale about what she remembers from the seconds before the 9:02 a.m. blast.
She also told the jury in the trial of alleged bomber Timothy J. McVeigh that she spent much of her life in a mental facility, and that the trauma of April 19, 1995, has only increased her paranoia.
Defense lawyers had expected her to testify that she saw a single “olive-skinned” man who did not resemble the fair-skinned McVeigh get out of the truck and walk away.
Because government prosecutors did not come up with a witness who could positively place McVeigh at the scene of the bombing, the defense had hoped that testimony from the 21-year-old Bradley would be the only eyewitness account about whether McVeigh is directly responsible for the worst mass murder in U.S. history.
But when Bradley took the stand Friday she said she had seen two men. One had olive skin, she said. The other was a light-skinned man who got out of the driver’s side door of the yellow Ryder rental truck. And, on cross-examination, she added that although she did not get a good look at him, he could have been McVeigh.
Cheryl Ramsey, a member of the McVeigh legal defense team, sought to clarify Bradley’s statements and get her to testify that McVeigh was neither man.
“You have never said that Timothy McVeigh was the person who got out of the truck,” Ramsey said. “Have you?”
“No,” Bradley answered.
She explained that both men left the area very quickly and headed in different directions. About the light\complected man, she said: “He walked off very fast across the street.”
Ramsey then reminded Bradley of a series of statements she had made to McVeigh’s defense team and the FBI in which she repeatedly insisted she had never seen a light-skinned man at all.
But, Bradley added, “I don’t even remember half of the things I said when they did the interview.”
In fact, in her earlier statements about seeing just one man, she maintained that he reminded her of the John Doe 2 figure that authorities first believed accompanied McVeigh to rent the Ryder truck.
“I recall telling them it was an olive-complexion man with short hair, curly, clean-cut,” she said Friday. “He had on a blue Starter jacket, blue jeans and tennis shoes, and a white hat with purple flames.”
The hat matches that in the John Doe 2 description. An employee at the Junction City, Kan., Ryder agency told the FBI the man wore a hat with flames or stripes on the side - similar to the logo for the Carolina Panthers professional football team.
Under cross-examination by Pat Ryan, the U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City, Bradley admitted she has had memory problems for a long time. Those problems were exacerbated by the bombing, which took the lives of her two small children and her mother, and critically injured her sister.
In addition, Bradley lost a leg when rescue workers were forced to amputate the limb to extricate her from the bomb debris.
“You can tell me one thing one week, and I would forget it the next week,” she said.
McVeigh, a 29-year-old former Army soldier, is on trial for his life in the Murrah building bombing. A total of 168 people died; more than 500 were injured.
A second defendant, Terry L. Nichols, is to be tried later.
McVeigh and Nichols have pleaded not guilty.