Nichols escapes death over Oklahoma bombing

Reuters
Nichols escapes death over Oklahoma bombing
Sun Jun 13, 2004 03:35
64.140.158.121

June 12, 2004 7:45 AM
Nichols escapes death over Oklahoma bombing
http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=143&sid=4997604

MCALESTER, Oklahoma (Reuters) - Terry Nichols has avoided the death sentence after an Oklahoma jury deadlocked, which
means he cannot be executed under Oklahoma law for the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people.

The deadlock after three days of deliberations was a major blow to prosecutors who had argued that Nichols should be put to death.
Nichols had previously been convicted of manslaughter in a federal court and sentenced to life without parole.

The state trial, with an estimated price tag of over $4 million (2.2 million pounds), was the most expensive in the state's history. There
was little support for the trial in the state.

Judge Steven Taylor will rule on August 9 whether Nichols will receive a life sentence with the possibility of parole or life without the
possibility of parole. Under Oklahoma law, the judge cannot issue a death sentence if a jury deadlocks in the punishment phase.

The same Oklahoma jury deliberated for about five hours when it convicted Nichols on May 26 on 161 murder counts for his role in
the deadly 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

The state trial lasted about two months and jurors heard from about 250 witnesses before convicting Nichols of murder. It was
followed by a penalty phase before the same jury.

Taylor complimented the jurors for "a job well done." Several relatives of the victims told reporters they were disappointed and did
not think that justice had been done. Nichols' defence attorney said it was time to put hatred behind.

The 161 murders included the 160 people other than federal agents who died in the April 19, 1995, blast along with a foetus whose
mother was one of the victims.

Nichols, 49, was also convicted in a 1997 federal trial of manslaughter and conspiracy in the death of eight federal agents killed in
the bombing and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Federal and state officials will negotiate to decide which sentence will take precedence.

About 70 percent of respondents in a statewide poll by the daily Tulsa World conducted before the Oklahoma trial said they did not
support Oklahoma County putting Nichols on trial again because of the cost.

Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane, who saw that Nichols was put on trial, defended his office's decision to bring charges
in Oklahoma despite the failure of his prosecutors to secure a death penalty. He said he was able to find justice for those killed who
were not a part of the federal charges against Nichols.

Nichols' former Army buddy and co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh was put to death in 2001 for triggering the home-made truck bomb
that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.

Nichols was convicted of buying major components for the bomb and storing them at a storage facility near his home in Kansas.

Prosecutors said he and McVeigh hated the government and blew up the federal building to avenge the Branch Davidians who died
when the FBI raided their religious compound near Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993. The Oklahoma City bombing took place two years
to the day after the raid on the Davidian compound.

Nichols did not testify in the case.

==================================================

Religion Credited in Nichols Jury's Choice
Prison Conversion Helped Spare Oklahoma City Conspirator, Lawyers Say
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37406-2004Jun12.html

By Tim Talley
Associated Press
Sunday, June 13, 2004; Page A12

McALESTER, Okla., June 12 -- Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry L. Nichols may have been spared the death penalty for a second time because a jailhouse conversion to Christianity gained him sympathy from the jury, lawyers in the case said Saturday.

The $10 million state prosecution, staged in an attempt to secure the death penalty, ended with the same sentence Nichols received in federal court six years ago: life.

Juror Daniel Cochran said as many as eight of the 12 jurors agreed to impose a death sentence. He declined to disclose further details of their deliberations.

"We all agreed that what went on in the jury room would stay in the jury room," he said.

But lawyers for both the prosecution and defense agreed jurors were influenced by Nichols's religious conversion. Nichols was also portrayed as susceptible to manipulation by Timothy J. McVeigh, the bombing's mastermind.

During the sentencing portion of his trial, defense witnesses testified that Nichols had worn out four Bibles through prayer and research, and that he wrote an 83-page letter to a prayer partner in Michigan while trying to make a point about Christian faith.

"Terry Nichols's belief in God is so firm that he believes if the rapture occurred today, he is going to heaven," defense attorney Creekmore Wallace told jurors.

After convicting him of 161 counts of murder in just five hours, the jurors wrestled with his punishment for 19 1/2 hours before concluding they could not agree on a penalty.

The deadlock means that Nichols will automatically be sentenced to life in prison for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

He received the same sentence on federal convictions for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers in 1998. That jury deadlocked after 13 1/2 hours of deliberation.

The state charges are for the other 160 victims and one victim's fetus.

Prosecutor Wes Lane, who pursued murder charges filed by his predecessor, Robert Macy, said the prosecution was about seeking justice for the other victims, not securing the death penalty.

"Justice was getting their day in court," he said.

But in announcing the state charges, Macy had said he was not satisfied with the outcome of the federal trial.

"Clearly, the reason they brought this action in Oklahoma was to kill Terry," defense attorney Brian Hermanson said. "They spent a huge amount of money. They caused a huge amount of heartache for a lot of people. And, basically, we reached the same result as the federal case."

Lane said he believes that Nichols was spared because of "sympathy issues" among some jurors, including for his religious conversion -- one that prosecutors said conveniently began about the time state murder charges were filed against him.

"I don't see Terry Nichols as being repentant necessarily," Lane said. "I know that Mr. Nichols was not willing to accept responsibility."

Wallace said Nichols's religious conversion is genuine, and that jurors may also have believed that Nichols was used by McVeigh, who was executed on federal murder charges on June 11, 2001.

Bud Welch, a death-penalty opponent whose daughter, Julie-Marie Welch, died in the bombing, said even some families who were angry that Nichols was spared a death sentence in his federal trial opposed the state charges.

"It just made sense the jury would not go for the death penalty," Welch said.

2004 The Washington Post Company



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