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Context of 'August 14, 1996: Judge in Oklahoma City Bombing Trial Rules Evidence Admissible, Some Statements Inadmissible'

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Judge Richard P. Matsch, presiding over the trials of the accused Oklahoma City bombers (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), rules that statements made by Terry Nichols against co-defendant Timothy McVeigh cannot be used against McVeigh at trial. Matsch also refuses defense requests to suppress a wide array of evidence against both Nichols and McVeigh (see June 28, 1996). Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says Matsch’s decision to retain the evidence “affirms that the federal government conducted its investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing with great care, as well as speed and skill.… The court ruled today that the government did not violate anyone’s constitutional rights, and it rejected all of the defense motions to surpress evidence. In short, every piece of evidence will be admissible.” Hartzler is not entirely accurate in his statement; Nichols’s statements against McVeigh given during Nichols’s nine-hour interrogation by FBI agents (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) are not admissible, and the agents who interrogated Nichols cannot testify about what Nichols told them. That evidence includes Nichols’s assertion that met McVeigh in Oklahoma City on April 16, 1995, three days before the bombing, and drove McVeigh back to Kansas (see April 16-17, 1995). Nor will a jury learn that Nichols told agents he lent McVeigh his pickup truck on April 18, the day prosecutors say the two assembled the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 8/15/1996]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joseph H. Hartzler, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh, left, and Terry Nichols look on as Judge Richard Matsch orders their trials to be severed.Accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh, left, and Terry Nichols look on as Judge Richard Matsch orders their trials to be severed. [Source: The Oklahoman]Judge Richard Matsch orders separate trials for accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), in a ruling considered a victory for the defense. McVeigh will be tried first. Both defendants’ lawyers argued that to try the two men together would irreparably harm their right to receive fair trials. McVeigh’s lawyers, Stephen Jones and Robert Nigh Jr., wrote in a filing, “The government envisions a trial in which the actions and statements of Terry Nichols become indistinguishable from the actions of Timothy McVeigh.” And Nichols’s lead lawyer Michael Tigar argued that Nichols “stands in serious risk of being found guilty by ‘mass application’ if he was tried jointly with Mr. McVeigh.” Matsch rules that McVeigh could be harmed by introduction of statements made by Nichols implicating him in the bombing, and the defense’s inability to cross-examine Nichols if Nichols were to exercise his right to avoid self-incrimination. “The court cannot save a joint trial by sacrificing the interests of one defendant to protect the other,” Matsch rules. “Timothy McVeigh will be profoundly prejudiced by a joint trial in this case. His lawyers cannot question Terry Nichols or cross-examine the FBI agents on what they say Terry Nichols said. In short, Timothy McVeigh may be caught in cross-fire.” Tigar says after the ruling, “A separate trial will force the government to prove its case against Mr. Nichols, rather than merely rely on guilt by association and spillover prejudice from the case against Mr. McVeigh.” [New York Times, 9/8/1996; New York Times, 10/26/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Prosecutor Sean Connelly, presenting the government’s desire for a single joint trial, has told Matsch: “The proof will be unified: McVeigh and Nichols, Nichols and McVeigh, every step of the way.” [New York Times, 10/4/1996] Joseph Hartzler leads the team of attorneys prosecuting McVeigh (see May 22, 1995). [TruTV, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Robert Nigh, Jr, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joseph H. Hartzler, Richard P. Matsch, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones, Sean Connelly, Michael E. Tigar, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal Judge Richard P. Matsch gives permission for the Justice Department to assist the investigation of an Oklahoma grand jury investigating whether the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was carried out by more than the two men convicted of the crime (see June 30, 1997). Matsch presided over the trials of convicted bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). Matsch says he will allow a federal judge in Oklahoma to decide whether federal grand jury information used to indict McVeigh and Nichols (see August 10, 1995) could be used by the Oklahoma grand jury. [New York Times, 6/25/1998]

Entity Tags: Richard P. Matsch, Timothy James McVeigh, US Department of Justice, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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