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Profile: Joe Guaftaferro

Joe Guaftaferro was a participant or observer in the following events:

Judge Richard Matsch (see December 1, 1995), citing the defendants’ right to an impartial jury in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and November 21, 1995), moves the trial from Oklahoma City to Denver, Colorado. Matsch is the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court in Colorado, and is essentially moving the case to his “home” courtroom. Matsch rules that because of intensive negative media coverage of the bombing, neither Timothy McVeigh nor Terry Nichols can receive fair trials in Oklahoma City. “This court… concludes that there is so great a prejudice against these two defendants in the State of Oklahoma that they cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial at any place… in that state,” Matsch writes. McVeigh and Nichols have been “demonized” in the press, he continues. “The intensity of the humanization of the victims in the public mind is in sharp contrast with the prevalent portrayals of the defendants.… [T]he interests of the victims in being able to attend this trial in Oklahoma are outweighed by the court’s obligation to assure that the trial be conducted with fundamental fairness and with due regard for all constitutional requirements.” McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones, says, “The judge examined all the evidence and saw that Oklahoma sees itself as the victims and that makes it difficult to get a fair trial here.” Prosecutors agreed that Oklahoma City was not the proper venue for the trial, but had asked that the trial be moved to Tulsa, only two hours from Oklahoma City; US Attorney Patrick Ryan, newly appointed by President Clinton to represent the Oklahoma City district, argued that moving the trial would present an undue hardship on the families of the victims who want to observe the trial. Attorney General Janet Reno says the government “does not have the right” to appeal Matsch’s decision and therefore is ready to move to trial “expeditiously.” Reno says the Justice Department would “pursue every means available to provide survivors and loved ones with an opportunity to observe and follow events in the courtroom.” Kathleen Treanor, who lost her daughter and her in-laws in the bombing, is angry with the decision, saying she had intended to go to the trials: “It stinks. Judge Matsch will not have to give up his bed or leave his home. He is inconvenienced in no way. I lost my only daughter and I won’t be able to afford to go.” But Toby Thompson, who lost his brother in the bombing, says: “It is very important that the trial be squeaky clean. If moving it to Nova Scotia would ensure that I wouldn’t have to go through it twice, that would be fine with me.” Legal experts say Matsch made the decision in order to obviate any possibility that the defense would use the venue of the trial as the basis for a possible appeal. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) criticizes the decision, saying Matsch moved the trial to Denver “for his personal comfort.… It is easier for him to go home and sleep in his own bed. That’s what his decision says to the hundreds and thousands of people impacted in this bombing. Its wrong on the facts and it’s wrong on the law.” Keating says he will coordinate with Governor Roy Romer (D-CO) and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, as well as the federal government, to fund transport and housing for relatives and friends of the victims who wish to attend the trials. [Washington Post, 2/21/1996; New York Times, 2/21/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 256; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Chicago jury consultant Joe Guaftaferro says of the venue change: “Colorado, from a jury perspective, could be risky. There’s a lot of white supremacists in those hills.” Public affairs law professor Rita Simon, an expert on the effects of publicity on a jury, says she agrees with Matsch’s decision, and adds, “With proper instruction, jurors could put aside any pretrial prejudice they may have picked up as a result of publicity about the case.” [New York Times, 2/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Patrick M. Ryan, Kathleen Treanor, Janet Reno, Frank Keating, Wellington Webb, Toby Thompson, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Roy Romer, Joe Guaftaferro, Rita J. Simon, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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