Slow Progress On McVeigh Jury

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DENVER: The first week of jury selection in the Oklahoma City bombing trial demonstrated how difficult it is to pick the right 12 men and women who can be impartial despite having heard plenty about the 1995 attack that killed 168 people. However, the lagging process has also offered a glimpse into how the trial could shape up, and what testimony Judge Richard Matsch, known for his no-nonsense style in the courtroom, may allow. As TIME's Patrick Cole reports, the judge has given the lawyers time for meticulous questioning of the potential jurors on everything from their religious and moral beliefs to details of traumatic events in their lives, which is almost unheard of in federal courts. "Because of their thorough grilling of the candidates, no one will be able to say they couldn't find a fair and impartial jury, even though about 30 percent of them have heard the reports that McVeigh allegedly confessed to the bombing," Cole says. Adds TIME's Charlotte Faltermayer, legal experts believe Matsch's easy-going manner in conducting jury selection could be a good indicator of whether he will allow testimony on the defense's most important theory: that McVeigh was simply a pawn in a larger foreign conspiracy and took no part in the actual bombing. Matsch, who controls how much the defense can spend on its investigations, already has approved thousands of dollars to pay for defense lawyers' trips to the Middle East and the Phillippines, to investigate the suspects' possible foreign connections to a Middle Eastern terrorist. If McVeigh's lawyers are allowed to spin the conspiracy theory, it will likely become the key component for the defense to cast doubt on the government's case.