The final prospective jurors were screened Monday in the Oklahoma City bombing trial, with the judge telling them they could know within hours whether they are in the final jury pool.
“We’re getting close here,” U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch told a prospect, a retired Air Force man who works in retail. The judge said the man would be contacted Monday night or this morning.
The judge told another: “We’ll be getting back to you soon for the selection of the jury.”
These were Matsch’s first public comments confirming that jury selection was winding down.
Sources have said opening statements are tentatively scheduled to begin Thursday, following the last private sessions in which jurors are dismissed for legal reasons and the exercising of peremptory challenges, in which attorneys can eliminate prospective jurors without stating a reason.
The judge, meantime, was considering empaneling an anonymous jury to hear the case against Timothy McVeigh, who faces the death penalty on murder and conspiracy charges in the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people.
Matsch was considering shuffling the numbers assigned to jury candidates who have undergone extensive questioning about their attitudes and backgrounds, sources told The Associated Press.
With the new numbers, it would be impossible to tell who actually was seated on the jury. Also, the judge has arranged for jurors to sit behind a large wall blocking them from the media - but not from the public section of the courtroom.
Juror questioning continued Monday with four people brought into court by the lunch break. A total of 96 people had undergone questioning by the judge and the attorneys since March 31.
Among those questioned was a woman who said she struggled to determine her feelings about the death penalty.
An administrative assistant with a hospital background, the woman said she always considered herself a “proponent of the death penalty” - until she got her summons in the McVeigh trial.
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