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Judge denies interviews, restricts victims' attendance in bombing trial

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Judge denies interviews, restricts victims' attendance in bombing trial10/21/96 COLORADO--The judge presiding over the Oklahoma City bombing criminal trial in…

Judge denies interviews, restricts victims’ attendance in bombing trial

10/21/96

COLORADO–The judge presiding over the Oklahoma City bombing criminal trial in Denver issued several rulings restricting access in early October which he says were necessary to protect the “process” of the trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch denied a motion filed by defendant Timothy McVeigh to conduct face-to-face interviews with selected journalists of his choosing because they would result in “inappropriate pretrial dissemination of evidence.” The judge based his denial on the gag order he imposed on trial participants in June, which he stated applies with equal force to the defendants.

Matsch also ruled that the approximately 40 bombing victims who are presently scheduled to testify during the penalty phase of the trial may not attend as spectators. The judge reasoned that the stress of observing the trial could affect their testimony to the point of tainting it.

McVeigh’s counsel had claimed that the interviews were necessary to counteract the publicity portraying his client as a “monster.” According to The Dallas Morning News, Matsch said that he was “troubled” that the defense was seeking court approval for a process that would favor some media organizations over others.

Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s co-defendant, and the government objected to McVeigh’s request, arguing that the interviews would taint prospective jurors, and that McVeigh’s First Amendment rights would not be implicated by a denial of his request because he was free to communicate with the media by telephone and letter.

In another development, The Dallas Morning News has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver (10th Cir.) Matsch’s sealing of a motion filed by Nichols to suppress statements that he made to the FBI and evidence obtained during searches of his home, garage and pickup truck. The suppression hearing was open to the media, and Nichols’s attorney has released redacted segments of the suppression motion. (U.S. v. McVeigh; Media Counsel: Paul Watler, Dallas; Tom Kelley, Denver)