Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols: Oklahoma Bombing
Nichols Jury Seated
On Thursday, March 11, 2004, the Washington Times reported the jury was seated in the Oklahoma state murder trial of Terry Nichols. They were ordered to return March 22 to hear opening arguments.
Nichols is already serving a life sentence in federal prison for his part in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Prospective jurors were interviewed individually by Judge Steven Taylor regarding their knowledge of Nichols's alleged involvement in the Oklahoma bombing. Prosecutors and defense council also questioned jurors at length to determine if they could "weigh the evidence in this new trial impartially."
In all over 160 jurors were called but only 34 were questioned by the end of the first day. Jury selection is expected to take at least two weeks to complete.
Later, outside the court, two of the perspective jurors who were rejected told reporters that they considered themselves unable to give an impartial verdict.
One man stated that he had already formed an opinion about Nichols guilt as he was "aware Nichols had been convicted in federal court and that he told the judge he could not be swayed in his belief about Nichols's guilt."
Another man also told Judge Taylor that he had a presumption of guilt for Nichols. "He was found guilty in federal court. They asked me three or four times if I could consider the evidence just in this case. I said no."
Prior to the start of jury selection, Nichols' defense team requested that Judge Taylor delay the trial so that the FBI could complete a review of old evidence in the case. The request was based on the premise that other persons may have been involved in the bombing. Taylor refused the request but made it clear that should he find that the state or federal government had withheld evidence that may prove Nichols innocence he would be prepared to dismiss all charges against him.
The basis of the defense case is the fact that Nichols wasn't in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing and their belief that Timothy McVeigh had other accomplices. They also contend that the federal government withheld key evidence because it did not fit in with their case.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III later ordered a review of documents that "might show a connection between McVeigh and band of white supremacist bank robbers, and their connection to an Arkansas gun dealer who figured in the federal case."
Michael Tigar, Nichols' attorney in the federal trial said: "It's inexcusable that this has not surfaced before. This information was clearly central to Terry's defense... There should be an independent OIG [Office of Inspector General] investigation."
State prosecutor Sandra Elliott responded saying: "Whether or not other people were involved does not negate Mr. Nichols's guilt."
Defense lawyer Barbara Bergman argued that if "the defense can show that others were more culpable that Nichols, it would be a mitigating factor when jurors consider the death penalty."
Nichols was spared the death penalty in the federal trial and is now being tried for another 161 deaths, which include an unborn child. The state is seeking the death penalty.