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October 4, 1996: Oklahoma City Bomb Judge Throws Out Test Evidence

Judge Richard P. Matsch, presiding over the upcoming trials of 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), refuses to allow prosecutors to use the results of a bomb test using a device similar to the one McVeigh is accused of using to destroy the Murrah Federal Building and kill 168 people. Prosecutors signed a written agreement with the defense in September 1995 assuring defense counsel that they would receive written notice of tests of explosive devices containing ammonium nitrate. In June 1996, the British government conducted a test explosion of a 5,000-pound ammonium nitrate bomb in Soccoro, New Mexico. FBI agents had free access to the site, but experts for the defense were kept more than a mile away, “so far it took eight seconds for the sound of the blast to get there,” according to a complaint from Nichols’s legal team. “That is not meaningful observation.” Prosecutors say the test bombing was not intended to be a replica of the Oklahoma City blast, and that lawyers for the defense had been provided with photographs, videotapes, and all data from the tests, in which the impact of the bomb on vehicles, street signs, and other items was tested. However, Matsch says that is not enough. “I’m going to enforce the agreement,” he rules. The defense was not given equal access, so prosecution experts cannot use the test results at trial. (Thomas 10/5/1996)


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