The man nominated by President Obama to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by last month's unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia feels a strong tie to this city, calling his work here one of the most formative experiences in his legal career.
As a deputy assistant attorney general under Janet Reno, Garland was sent to Oklahoma City immediately after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. His role was to supervise the government's case against the perpetrators of what was then the nation's deadliest incident of domestic terrorism.
In what was Oklahoma City's darkest hour, Garland went to great lengths to let the light shine again, by making sure that justice was served and the government's case was airtight.
Wednesday, March 16, almost 21 years later, President Obama spoke about the profound impact Oklahoma City had on Judge Garland. Garland himself acknowledged the same in a recent interview.
"It was the thing that I feel like I made the biggest--I was able to make the biggest personal contribution to something," said Judge Garland.
Oklahoma City attorney Vicki Behenna was part of the team that prosecuted Timothy McVeigh. She says Garland's oversight was important in getting convictions.
"And more importantly, not just getting a conviction," said Behenna, in an interview Wednesday, "but making sure the people responsible for the crime were held responsible for their actions, and making sure the evidence was gathered appropriately to make sure the convictions were upheld."
The Executive Director of the OKC National Memorial, Kari Watkins, was among those at Wednesday’s White House ceremony. Watkins says, from the moment he arrived in Oklahoma City, Garland was intent on doing things right, and getting the right people in place.
"And Merrick and his team began to put that team in place and did a remarkable job," said Watkins, in a phone interview from Washington, D.C., "and looking back twenty years on it, it has withstood the test of time."
Watkins says she visited with Judge Garland in his Washington, D.C. office this past weekend, and says it was very telling to her that this man who currently sits on the second most powerful court in the country, had prominently displayed in his office, numerous mementos from his work on the bombing case.