Oklahoma Victims Can Attend Trial

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DENVER: Bowing to pressure from Congress and President Clinton, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch reversed course and agreed to allow survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing and relatives of the victims to attend the trial of Timothy McVeigh, which begins next Monday, even if they plan to testify at a later sentencing hearing. Matsch had argued that that testimony might be influenced by the emotional experience of watching the trial, a possibility bitterly rejected by victims and their relatives. Matsch says he changed his mind because of legislation signed last week by President Clinton that would allow the trial to be broadcast via closed-circuit television to an auditorium of survivors and victim relatives in Oklahoma City. Speaking amidst a growing national debate over victims' rights, Clinton said that "when someone is a victim, he or she should be at the center of the criminal justice process, not on the outside looking in." Matsch said that his reversal is intended to avoid a lengthy debate over the new law's constitutionality. That, he says, would only delay the paramount issue at hand: the trial itself.