Oklahoma Bombing Report

Terry Nichols Trial

Timothy McVeigh Trial


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Oklahoma Bombing Chronology

1995
April 19A bomb rips through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building at 9:02 a.m. McVeigh is arrested 90 minutes later on a firearms charge after a routine traffic stop near Billings, Okla.
April 21 Federal authorities arrest McVeigh, who resembles the sketch of John Doe No. 1, in connection with the bombing only hours before he was expected to make bail on the firearms charge in Perry. Nichols surrenders in Herington, Kan., after learning police are looking for him. Nichols and his brother James are held on material witness warrants.
May 10 Terry Nichols is formally charged in the bombing.
May 23 Wrecked hulk of the building is brought down. James Nichols is released; charges against him are later dropped.
Aug. 2McVeigh's sister Jennifer testifies before a federal grand jury.
Aug. 7 McVeigh's attorney, Stephen Jones, suggests an unidentified leg found in the rubble could belong to "the real bomber."
Aug. 8 McVeigh friend Michael Fortier and his wife testify before the grand jury.
Aug. 10 Grand jury indicts McVeigh and Nichols on murder and conspiracy charges. Fortier pleads guilty to a minor firearms charge as part of a plea bargain. U.S. District Judge Wayne Alley is assigned to the case.
Sept. 14 Alley denies requests from prosecutors and defense attorneys that he step down from the case because his office and courtroom were damaged by the blast. He sets trial for May 17 in Lawton, about 90 miles from Oklahoma City.
Oct. 20 Prosecutors announce they will seek the death penalty against McVeigh and Nichols.
Nov. 21 Defense attorneys ask the court to move the trial out of Oklahoma, arguing that intense media coverage had tainted the jury pool.
Dec. 1 A federal appeals court removes Alley from the case, ruling that bomb damage to his courtroom and chambers could raise doubts about his impartiality.
Dec. 4 Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch of Denver is appointed the judge in the case. During the trial he earned the reputation of being an efficient judge.
Dec. 12 Matsch strikes the May 17 trial date, but does not set a new timetable.

1996
Feb. 20 Matsch moves the case to Denver, ruling that McVeigh and Nichols have been ``demonized'' by intense media coverage in Oklahoma.
Feb. 23 Medical examiners announce that the mystery leg belonged to a previously identified victim.
March 30 McVeigh and Nichols are transferred to a federal prison in Englewood, Colo.
April 19 Mourners gather at bombing site on the anniversary of the attack and pause for 168 seconds of silence -- one second for each victim.
May 29 Matsch rejects Nichols' civil challenge to the federal death penalty.
June 26 Matsch tells survivors and family members they cannot watch trial proceedings if they plan to testify against McVeigh and Nichols.
July 15 Matsch says a law establishing closed-circuit telecast of the trial is constitutional. He later orders the telecast to be shown in a government auditorium near the Oklahoma City airport.
Aug. 14 Matsch refuses to throw out the bulk of the evidence, and says statements Nichols made to authorities after his arrest could be used against him, but not against McVeigh.
Sept. 25 Matsch rules federal death penalty is constitutional, clearing the way for prosecutors to seek it against McVeigh and Nichols.
Oct. 25 Matsch orders McVeigh and Nichols to be tried separately, ruling their rights could be compromised by a joint trial. Nichols will be tried after McVeigh, but no date has been set.
Nov. 15 Matsch sets McVeigh's trial on March 31.

1997
Jan. 27 Four FBI workers who evaluated evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing case are transferred out of the crime lab in wake of a federal report that is critical of lab procedures.
Jan. 29 Matsch bans news media from closed-circuit telecast in Oklahoma City.
Feb. 5 Matsch decides to draw prospective jurors from a 23-county area around metropolitan Denver. He also rejects defense requests to throw out hair, fiber and handwriting analyses on grounds they are a ``junk science.''
Feb. 20 Matsch denies defense requests to eliminate testimony of six prosecution eyewitnesses who changed portions of their testimony over the past two years.
Feb. 28 In a story on its Internet site, the Dallas Morning News reports that McVeigh confessed to the bombing. Two other reports on the purported confession follow in the next two weeks.
March 17 Matsch refuses to attorneys to move or delay McVeigh's trial, and orders jury selection to begin March 31 as scheduled.
March 25 Judge Matsch reverses his previous ban on allowing victims who are possible witnesses to attend the trial.
March 31 Jury selection begins in McVeigh's trial.
April 22 Jury seated.
April 24 Opening statements begin.
May 21 Prosecutors rest their case after calling 137 witnesses in 18 days.
May 28 Defense rests after calling 25 witnesses in 3 1/2 days.
May 29 Closing arguments.
May 30 Jurors begin deliberations.
June 2After 23 1/2 hours of deliberations over four days, the jury convicts McVeigh on all 11 counts.
June 13Jury condemns McVeigh to die by injection.
Aug. 13The Buffalo (N.Y.) News reports that, in an interview, McVeigh said his lead defense lawyer "screwed up badly," and that he didn't want to keep Stephen Jones as his attorney.
Aug. 14Before being formally sentenced to death, McVeigh tells the judge the government "teaches the people by its example."
Aug. 20Calling his client an ingrate and a liar, Stephen Jones asks the court for permission to step down as McVeigh's lead attorney for the appeals process.
Aug. 27A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals named Robert Nigh Jr., one of McVeigh's trial lawyers, to be in charge of his appeal.
Sept. 17Potential jurors ordered to report for questioning on knowledge of case against Nichols.
Oct. 31Seven women and five men are selected to serve as jurors in the trial of Timothy McVeigh.
Nov. 7Prosecutors try to tie Nichols to the purchase of two tons of ammonium nitrate.
Nov. 13Key prosecution witness Michael J. Fortier says McVeigh once asked him to join McVeigh and Nichols to take "positive affirmative action" against the government.
Nov. 14Nichols's defense attorney portrays Fortier, the prosecution's star witness, as a "thieving" liar and drug abuser.
Nov. 20Nichols's ex-wife testifies how a letter from Nichols told McVeigh to "go for it" five months before the bombing.
Nov. 21Attorneys for the defense try to discredit an FBI agent's account of a 9 1/2-hour interview with Nichols two days after the bombing.
Dec. 3The prosecution rests.
Dec. 4Defense lawyers try to shift jurors' focus to "John Doe No. 2."
Dec. 12The defense rests its case after testimony from Nichols's wife.
Dec. 16Closing arguments.
Dec. 24Nichols is found guilty on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Dec. 30Prosecutors seek the death penalty for Nichols.
1998
Jan. 7Nichols is spared the death penalty by a deadlocked jury.
Jan. 16McVeigh's attorneys appeal his conviction, citing pretrial publicity and other factors.
April 20Nichols rejects an offer of leniency in exchange for information about the bombing, saying it would jeopardize him if he is tried in Oklahoma.
May 27 Michael Fortier is sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000 for failing to warn authorities about bombing plans.
June 4Calling him "an enemy of the Constitution," a federal judge sentences Terry L. Nichols to life in prison. The sentencing closes the judicial books on a searing chapter in American history that underscored the nation's vulnerability to domestic terror.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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