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Documents sealed, missing in Oklahoma City bombing case

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Documents sealed, missing in Oklahoma City bombing case10/23/95 OKLAHOMA--Documents connected to the trial of two men for the bombing of…

Documents sealed, missing in Oklahoma City bombing case

10/23/95

OKLAHOMA–Documents connected to the trial of two men for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building have been sealed and docket entries are missing from the record, often without explanation, according to lawyers for media organizations covering the case. The documents have been sealed since the beginning of the investigation into the April 19 bombing.

And in mid-September, a federal District Court in Phoenix denied full access to court documents concerning investigations into the Oklahoma City bombing requested by the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona and KPNX-TV. The district court found that unlimited access could damage the on-going investigative process.

Attorneys in the actions in Oklahoma and Arizona fighting to unseal documents and open the proceedings assert that secrecy is unnecessary since no possible irreparable harm to compelling interests has been demonstrated that outweighs the right of access to criminal proceedings.

The federal District Court in Phoenix permitted complete unsealing of two search warrants. All other search warrants either remained completely sealed or were disclosed only in redacted form.

In a separate action, KOCO-TV filed a motion in federal District Court in Oklahoma City in late September to unseal several documents and open proceedings. KOCO-TV stated that several documents are identified only by the one word entry, “sealed,” on the docket sheet. KOCO also found 143 docket entries missing from the record altogether.

KOCO asserts that no finding exists showing a compelling state interest for closing the documents and proceedings. Since there are a great number of sealed documents in the proceeding, the District Court ordered the media, defense and prosecution attorneys to meet through most of October to see which of the sealed documents they can mutually agree to open before bringing the case to trial. (In re search warrants; Media Counsel: Daniel Barr, Rachel Weiss, Phoenix; In re United States v. McVeigh, Combined Communications Corporation of Oklahoma; Media Counsel: Clyde Muchmore, Harvey Ellis, Jr., Oklahoma City)