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Judge refuses to delay McVeigh bombing trial

The judge in the Oklahoma City bombing case refused Monday to delay Timothy McVeigh's trial despite a stream of news stories about his purported confession.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said jury selection will begin as planned March 31.

The stories about McVeigh appeared in recent weeks in the Dallas Morning News, Playboy and Newsweek.

"Past experience with jurors and a general awareness of public attitudes about pretrial publicity in similar cases strongly suggests that these stories have had neither the wide exposure nor general acceptance that the defendant's lawyers presume," Matsch wrote.

"I have full confidence that a fair-minded jury can and will be empaneled and that those selected will return a just verdict based on the law and evidence presented to them."

McVeigh's lawyer, Stephen Jones, had asked Matsch to dismiss the charges or delay the trial. "Judge Matsch has addressed these issues, and we'll hope he's right," Jones said after the ruling.

Matsch noted that the story has been extensively reported in the two years since the bombing. Nearly 1,000 prospective jurors have been summoned, and Matsch expressed confidence that careful questioning could produce an impartial jury of 12 and six alternates.

The trial was moved to Denver from Oklahoma City to make it easier to find an impartial jury.

Newsweek magazine reported this week that McVeigh admitted during a lie detector test given by his lawyers that he was involved in the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The explosion killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

McVeigh failed a question about whether all his accomplices were known to investigators, the magazine said, citing anonymous sources close to the investigation.

The News also has reported that McVeigh had confessed to the bombing, and a story in Playboy outlined what it said were defense documents that detail how the bombing was carried out.

McVeigh and Terry Nichols could face the death penalty if convicted of conspiracy and murder.