Feature

Mountains Of Evidence

February 1997

Barring any unexpected delays, trial number 96-CR-68-M, United States of America v. Timothy James McVeigh will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 31, 1997 in downtown Denver’s federal courthouse. Standing outside the courthouse on a wet and snowy afternoon when the trial date was announced late last year, government lawyers confidently told reporters that “the government is ready for trial.”

Are they ever.

Though McVeigh was arrested within minutes of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the government has spent the better part of two years assembling a literal mountain of evidence against the 28-year-old former soldier.

In addition to more than three tons of building debris collected for its case, the government says it has amassed more than 100,000 other pieces of evidence. This includes nearly 30,000 witness statements, 350 audio tapes, 440 video tapes, more than 30,000 photographs, 477 FBI lab reports, and several CD-ROMs full of case information.

It is easy to see the investigation and trial as examples of a government and judicial system out of control. During months of pretrial wrangling, neither side has passed up an opportunity to outdo the other in the collection of evidence, even to the point of demanding access to photos allegedly taken from the Space Shuttle.

To date, the government has spent nearly $30 million in the preparation of its case. McVeigh’s defense — which is also being paid for with your tax dollars — will add millions more to that figure.