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Eyewitness News

May 23, 1997 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: Now, an update on the Oklahoma City bombing trial and to Charles Krause.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Federal prosecutor spent four weeks laying out their case against Timothy McVeigh. Yesterday his lawyers began the defense. Today’s principal witness was Dana Bradley, one of the blast’s survivors. For more details on what she told a jury and the defense case so far we’re joined by Tim Sullivan, senior correspondent for Court TV. Tim Sullivan, welcome.

TIM SULLIVAN, Court TV: Thank you, Charles.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Tell us about Dana Bradley’s testimony.

TIM SULLIVAN: Well, Dana Bradley’s testimony is very compelling. She’s a very sympathetic witness. She was very scared. You could see how nervous she was. It was difficult for her to talk. And, of course, she lost a leg in that bombing. She has an artificial leg now. She limped into court and had to be helped up to the witness stand. But her testimony was that she saw a Ryder truck pull up in front of the building just moments before the bombing, and she saw a man get out. And she described this man as having an olive complexion, short, curly hair, and wearing a white hat with purple flames on it. She later identified the sketch of John Doe 2, the man wearing a similar baseball cap, as the man she saw. The problem for the defense was that she said today she also saw a second man get out of that truck. She said that was a white male. She could not describe his face, but up until last week she was only saying that she saw one man. This was what made her such a good witness for the defense; that she saw somebody get out of the truck who clearly is not Timothy McVeigh. But today she said she saw two men, so obviously the other man, according to prosecutors, could very well be McVeigh.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Was she, in fact, asked to identify McVeigh and asked whether the man she saw was McVeigh.

TIM SULLIVAN: Yes, she was, Charles, and she could not do that. She said, “I cannot identify the man. I don’t know that it was Tim McVeigh. I don’t know that it wasn’t. I just don’t have a recollection. I never saw him well enough.”

CHARLES KRAUSE: Now, how did the defense attorneys, who called her, handle the fact that she changed her testimony from what she had told them pre-trial?

TIM SULLIVAN: Well, Cheryl Ramsey, who did the direct examination for her on behalf of McVeigh, seemed to try to suggest that it was either FBI agents or prosecutors or perhaps even the families of the victims who got her to change her mind. Now, Ms. Ramsey acknowledged that the first time she told anybody there was only one person–I’m sorry–that there was a second person was in a meeting with Ms. Ramsey, herself, last week, but then she was brought out that Dana Bradley had met with prosecutors twice in the past week before her testimony and met the other night here in Denver with some families of the victims. And the implication was clear that she is suggesting that perhaps they changed her mind–helped her remember seeing a second man.

CHARLES KRAUSE: So was her testimony damaging for the defense?

TIM SULLIVAN: Well, yes, it was damaging for the defense in that she saw this second man who could very well be McVeigh, but I think it helps them at least in that there is another man there. The jury now knows that she wasn’t claiming to have seen a second man till last week. She acknowledged that. And I think the defense position is if they can put other people in this with McVeigh, at the very least, they might be able to save his life. In other words, the jury might not vote death penalty if they think, you know, there are others involved who got away who might be even more culpable.

CHARLES KRAUSE: From what you know, would it have been inappropriate had the prosecutors or members–other members–victims or the families have tried to convince her to change her mind–would that have been inappropriate?

TIM SULLIVAN: Yes, I think that would have been inappropriate. Now, there isn’t anything inappropriate about prosecutors meeting with her if she’s willing–you know–if a witness is willing to meet with the other side before a trial and do an interview with them, that’s entirely appropriate. She was accompanied by her lawyer in these meetings with prosecutors and also with defense lawyers, so that’s okay. But if they suggested that she should change her story, then that is inappropriate.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Now, at the same time, the prosecution, how did they handle the fact that she changed–to some extent changed her testimony–at least what she had said before?

TIM SULLIVAN: Well, Pat Ryan, who did the cross-examination of Ms. Bradley, handled her very gently. You know, she is a victim. She lost her children and her mother. He was very careful with her, and he pointed out that there were no victims with him when he met with her; that he got her to acknowledge; he didn’t suggest that she should change her story in any way; that she told him basically the same thing she had told the defense attorney’s a couple of days earlier; that she had seen a second man.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Briefly, yesterday, two pathologists testified. What was the import of her testimony?

TIM SULLIVAN: Well, the first was the medical examiner from Oklahoma City who talked about the fact that there was a leg that was recovered from the rubble of the Murrah Building, and it has never been identified. They’ve never been able to figure out who that leg belongs to. And the other was a pathologist–an expert called by the defense–former medical examiner for Northern Ireland. His testimony was that it’s possible with an ammonium nitrate bomb for a body to be entirely disintegrated, with the exception of one limb, one piece remaining. And he said for that to happen it has to be somebody who was very near the bomb. And the only case he knows of where that happened in Northern Ireland it was, in fact, the bomber, whose body was totally disintegrated, except for one part that survived. And so the implication is that that leg belongs to the real bomber.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Based on yesterday’s testimony and today’s testimony, what can you tell about the strategy that the defense is attempting to build here?

TIM SULLIVAN: Well, I think they’re doing two things, Charles. First, they’re trying to knock down the identification of Tim McVeigh as the man who rented the Ryder truck. Today they called the sketch artist who drew the John Doe sketches, and they called some soldiers from a nearby army base who they imply are the real people who were sketched; that it’s not McVeigh who was sketched. So they’re attacking that identification. But they’re also just trying to convince the jury that other people were involved in this bombing. Lots of witnesses will be called who have seen second–this second man, so to speak; that there were more people involved. And if there were more people involved, maybe McVeigh was just a patsy. Maybe he had a minor role in it; when it comes to death penalty, he’s not the person who should get the death penalty.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Tim Sullivan, thank you very much for joining us.