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Judge refuses to drop charges against McVeigh


Request to delay or move trial also denied

March 17, 1997
Web posted at: 7:56 p.m. EST (0056 GMT)

DENVER (CNN) -- The judge in the Oklahoma City bombing trial on Monday denied a defense request that charges against bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh be dismissed or that the bombing trial be delayed or moved.

In denying the request, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said he does not accept defense assumptions that McVeigh can no longer receive a fair trial. The judge said the trial will begin as scheduled on March 31 in Denver.

"I have full confidence that a fair-minded jury can and will be impaneled and that those selected will return a just verdict," Matsch wrote.

McVeigh attorney Stephen Jones was low-key in his response.

"It was necessary to file it in order to preserve the record, in the event that there is a conviction and an appeal is taken," Jones said after the ruling.

In a five-page order, the judge said extensive questioning of potential jurors "will determine whether the persons summoned from 23 counties in Colorado include at least 18 people who can serve as jurors and alternates in the forthcoming trial."

In written arguments Friday, McVeigh's attorneys claimed his trial should be postponed or moved to Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont or the U.S. Virgin Islands because of two recently published reports claiming McVeigh admitted planting the bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.

McVeigh's lawyers contend the confessions, reported by The Dallas Morning News and Playboy magazine in the past two weeks, have jeopardized the jury pool.

Jones has denounced the reports, and said the Dallas story was based on a falsified document.

A third report claiming McVeigh's involvement in the bombing that killed 168 people surfaced over the weekend in Newsweek magazine. Newsweek reported that McVeigh admitted his involvement in the bombing during a lie detector test given by his lawyers.

"Past experience with jurors and a general awareness of public attitudes about pretrial publicity in similar cases strongly suggests that these stories have had neither the wide exposure nor general (acceptance) that the defendant's lawyers presume," Matsch wrote.

Matsch noted that nearly two years have passed since the destruction of the Federal Building and that the story has been extensively reported. Matsch said more stories can be expected "with an increasing slant toward the sensational" as the trial date nears.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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