Defense Upset By Prosecutor Meeting with Bomb Victims
Oct. 28, 1996
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A lawyer for bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh accused prosecutors today of trying to prejudice the trial by meeting with victims' relatives and labeling defense theories as ``wacky.''
The meeting was a ``deliberate example of the government engaged in unauthorized disclosure,'' attorney Stephen Jones said on NBC's ``Today'' show.
Prosecutors spent more than two hours Sunday answering questions from about 200 relatives and survivors during a meeting at the U.S. attorney's office, just a few blocks from the site of the bombed federal building.
The meeting came two days after U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch in Denver ordered separate trials in the case.
McVeigh, 28, and Terry Nichols, 41, are charged with federal murder, conspiracy and weapons counts in the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 500. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
Joseph Hartzler, the lead prosecutor in the case, told The Daily Oklahoman he wanted victims to understand that the decision for separate trials and other rulings were procedural matters ``that did not in any way affect either the quality or quantity of the evidence.''
Hartzler also said he hoped prosecutors were able to lay to rest some claims made by defense lawyers _ ``what I characterize as the wacky theories.''
``It squelched a lot of rumors that I was hearing,'' said Janet Walker, whose husband died in the blast.
Mrs. Walker said the meeting helped her dismiss the possibility of an ``overseas connection'' that defense lawyers mentioned.
Jones was upset that the meeting was held at all.
``That's a violation of Department of Justice guidelines, it's a violation of the judge's order and it's a deliberate attempt to prejudice this trial,'' he said.
Asked what the judge should do with Hartzler, Jones said: ``Shut him up.''
Daniel DeMoss, a Social Security Administration employee who was injured in the blast, said he now believes the prosecution has a strong case.
``I think the evidence they have is really clear-cut,'' he said. ``I think they just can't wait to get this thing to trial.''