DENVER (AP) — A ju…

DENVER (AP) — A judge cleared the way for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in the Oklahoma City bombing trial, rejecting defense arguments that the punishment is cruel and unusual.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch on Wednesday also rejected defense claims that Attorney General Janet Reno violated a Justice Department policy by announcing the day of the bombing that she would press for the death penalty.
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are charged with murder and conspiracy in the April 19, 1995, bombing which killed 168 people.
No trial date has been set. The next hearing in the case is Oct. 2 to consider defense requests to separate the trials of the two men. They could get the death sentence under a 1994 federal law.
Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lawyer, said he did not plan an immediate appeal. “This only becomes relevant if there’s a conviction,” he said.
Defense lawyers had argued that the federal death penalty is unconstitutional because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
They also claimed Reno violated Justice Department guidelines, which call for several steps and discussions prior to a decision about seeking the death penalty. The defense claimed her haste showed she was biased and their clients were being treated unfairly.
But Matsch said federal law requires only that prosecutors file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, which they did Oct. 20.
“Nothing has been submitted to show or suggest that the notices were filed because of any discriminatory motive, invidious classification or improper motivation as to either defendant,” the judge said.