Whiffs of conspiracy theories drifted through a federal courtroom here Tuesday as potential jurors were questioned in the second day of the trial of Timothy McVeigh, accused in the horrific bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building two years ago.
Of the first 10 potential jurors quizzed by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, prosecutors and defense lawyers, half mentioned the word “conspiracy” or suggested they believed that others besides McVeigh and his one-time Army buddy Terry Nichols were involved in the bombing, which killed 168 people and injured more than 500 in America’s worst-ever domestic terrorist attack.
The conspiracy theories mentioned in court varied widely - ranging from one citing anti-government militias to another centering on the possibility that the government, itself, was responsible for the bombing.
McVeigh and Nichols are the only persons charged in the April 19, 1995, bombing, although the indictment says they conspired with “others unknown.” Nichols will be tried after McVeigh’s trial is completed, probably sometime later this year.
Jurors are being identified only by number as they appear, one by one, behind a partial wall screening them from most spectators.
Juror No. 851, an artistic agent whose birthday is April 19, said she had heard McVeigh was “connected to a group conspiring against the government.” But a starkly different conspiracy was mentioned by the potential juror who preceded her into the courtroom. That woman, No. 630, said “a couple of my friends” had suggested “the government was in a conspiracy” to cause the bombing.
Still another member of the jury pool, No. 858, said that “I have a personal sense” that the conspiracy “runs much deeper than one individual.”
That potential juror spoke of “people out there” who have “anti-government, anti-authoritarian sentiment” and are “a growing thing in our society.”
In two days only 12 of the 352 members of the jury pool have been questioned in a process intended to settle on 64 finalists for the 18 slots being filled - 12 jurors and 6 alternates.
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