How the Oklahoma City Bombing Case Prepared Merrick Garland to Take on Domestic Terrorism


Professor Clare Huntington, a former clerk for Merrick Garland, was quoted in The Washington Post and shared her expert opinion on how the Oklahoma City bombing prepared Judge Garland to take on domestic terrorism.

The truck bomb leveled a section of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring hundreds more in one of the deadliest domestic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. But as Merrick Garland huddled with the lead prosecutor on the case, he urged caution in presenting the massive amount of evidence from the wreckage.
“Do not bury the crime in the clutter,” he said.
Garland, then a top Justice Department official, was encouraging prosecutors to speed the trial along and jettison superfluous findings in their case against Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of carrying out the 1995 attack and executed in 2001, said Joe Hartzler, the team’s lead attorney. Hartzler said he found the advice so compelling that he wrote the words on a sheet of paper and hung it on an office wall as a rallying cry for his team.
More than two decades later, Garland, 68, is preparing to lead the Justice Department as attorney general and facing a domestic terrorism threat that has metastasized, with white supremacists and conspiracy-minded anti-government types emboldened by their acknowledgment from former president Donald Trump.
“He knew and felt the weight of the individual lives lost — the families, the children, the first responders. That was front and center,” said Clare Huntington, one of Garland’s first law clerks after he joined the bench in 1997.
Huntington, now a Fordham University law professor, described Garland as “clear-eyed about what was at stake. This was domestic terrorism.”

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