Legal Hypothetical: McVeigh Re-Trial

I will try to keep this as simple and short as possible.

Since the FBI apparently withheld files, Timothy McVeigh has the chance of a new trial. But since the Guilty verdict he has written a tell-all book, done TV interviews and made comments to the effect that he did in fact do it.

If he were to win a new trial could these revelations be used against him? Could they be considered an admission of guilt or would they be stricken? And does he have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting an unbiased jury anymore?

At best, I would assume McVeigh could get off on some sort of technical mis-trial… but I dont see it happening. McVeigh is public enemy #1. The people want him dead. The government wants him dead. Everyone wants to see the show. Even if legally he had a case, I doubt it would fly. And if it did, he’d be capped almost directly upon his release, Im sure.

In general, any comments made outside the courtroom, and offered into evidence during trial to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statements, are hearsay. In general, hearsay is inadmissible.

However, there are several exceptions to the hearsay rule, and one of them doesnt’ look good for McVeigh. A statement made “…so far contrary to the declarant’s pecuniary or proprietary interest, or so far tended to subject the declarant to civil or criminal liability… that a reasonable person in the declarant’s position would not have made the statement unless believing it to be true…” is admissible. This is often referred to in shorthand as a “statement against interest,” and it’s admissible if the declarant is unavailable to testify.

  • Rick

Cyberhwk, I haven’t been following the details of this case, so I am embarrassed to confess that I’m not even sure in which forum McVeigh was convicted (state or federal charges? Federal, I’m guessing), but –

the statements you have indicated fit within an exception to the hearsay rule as statements against penal interest, and normally would be admissible. And, since the statements were made to private parties, the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is not implicated. I’d say they are admissible, and the defense would have a fun time convincing a jury that they were not credible.

As to an impartial jury; it might be tough, but it could be done. They just might need a jury venire of about 2,000.