Published June 08, 2001
For the Prosecution
Michael J. Fortier
Close friend of McVeigh from their Army days, he gave the most detailed account of the defendant's activities in the months before the bombing. He spoke of McVeigh's hatred for the government and said he planned to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building "to cause a general uprising in America."
Michael Fortier's wife testified that six months before the bombing, McVeigh showed her how he intended to build the bomb and told her the chemicals he intended to use. She also talked of how she helped him make a false driver's license.
The defendant's sister testified her brother was angry at the government because of its actions at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex. She also said he said he was moving from "the propaganda stage" to the "action stage." She offered details of letters he sent her and papers of his that she burned.
On the Bombing
Using emotional testimony of victims, witnesses and rescue workers, prosecutors kept the jury focused on the 168 people killed and 850 injured by the blast. Many jurors left the courtroom in tears on the first day of the trial. Lawyers carefully spread such testimony throughout the trial, providing dramatic interludes to dry testimony about physical evidence.
FBI experts found explosives residue on McVeigh's shirt and jeans, and on earplugs he was carrying when he was arrested. A fingerprint expert for the agency identified two of McVeigh’s fingerprints on the receipt for a ton of ammonium nitrate prosecutors said was used to make the bomb. Agents identified dozens of mangled parts from the Ryder rental truck that contained the bomb.
None of the experts called were among those criticized in the Justice Department's recent report on failings at the FBI crime laboratory.
The Ryder Truck
Prosecutors used telephone records to suggest McVeigh had been the caller who reserved the truck from a rental office in Junction City, Kan. The owner of the office said it was McVeigh who picked up the truck two days before the bombing. A witness said he saw the defendant in a Ryder truck in a motel parking lot in Junction City.
For the Defense
Defense lawyers sought to discredit them by portraying them as drug users and liars who hoped to make big money by selling their story. They admit they lied repeatedly to the FBI and changed their story. The defense suggested the Fortiers testified against McVeigh to spare themselves long prison sentences. Fortier has pleaded guilty to knowing about the bomb plot and failing to warn agents who could have stopped it.
She acknowledged she lied to the FBI in her first sworn statement, and said agents questioned her for eight or nine hours a day for "eight days straight," threatening to charge her with treason and other crimes punishable by the death penalty.
On the Bombing
The defense suggested the real bomber died in the explosion. The Oklahoma medical examiner said he had never found a body to match a severed leg found at the scene. Other testimony challenged the prosecution's assertion that McVeigh was the person who used the name Robert Kling to rent the truck.
The Physical Evidence
The defense attacked the integrity of the FBI crime laboratory, taking testimony from Frederic W. Whitehurst, the whistle-blowing chemist who worked in the lab's explosives unit. Defense lawyers suggested important evidence, including McVeigh's clothing, might have been mishandled. But testimony was severely limited by Judge Richard P. Matsch.
The Ryder Truck
The rental office owner could not be sure of the height of "Robert Kling," who rented the truck. Under cross-examination, the witness in the parking lot conceded that he might have seen the truck the day before prosecutors say it was rented.