Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols: Oklahoma Bombing
The Nichols Defense
By Rachael Bell
On May 6, 2004, Nichols' defense attorneys began their arguments. Talley reported in a May 5, 2004 AP Online article that the defense's strategy focused on John Doe No. 2 and the possibility that the unidentified man and other conspirators partook in the bombing that was masterminded by McVeigh. However, the evidence the defense initially planned to use during the trial was significantly restricted because Judge Taylor found most of it unsubstantiated and based on rumors.
A large portion of the defense witnesses claimed that they saw another man with McVeigh around the time of the bombing. Some claimed that the man they saw fit the description of John Doe No. 2 whereas others claimed that the man was someone else. Yet, few of the defense witnesses claimed to have seen Nichols with McVeigh in the time leading up to the bombing.
Two women that worked at a Junction City, Kansas motel said that they saw McVeigh with another man, several days prior to the attack on the Murrah building. According to Talley's May 7, 2004 AP Online article, one of the women said she forgot the face of the man who was with McVeigh but she did remember he wore a blue and white baseball cap, resembling that which John Doe No. 2 purportedly wore. The other motel worker was better able to describe the man with McVeigh, claiming that he wore a baseball cap and was, "well built, had short black hair and had a dark complexion that made him appear Hispanic," Talley reported. The man she described fit the description of John Doe No. 2 as seen by several other witnesses in the days prior to the bombing, including a mechanic, a catering truck driver, who never served as witnesses in any of the cases, as well as workers at a Junction City hair salon and a body shop worker who did provide testimony at the trials.
Timothy McVeigh's sister Jennifer also testified at the trial in mid May. Talley stated in a May 15, 2004 article that Jennifer admitted that her brother knew Nichols, yet he rarely talked about him in conversations with her. The article further stated that Jennifer helped her brother distribute anti-government leaflets, some of which were found at Nichols' house.
Another of the defense's key witnesses was FBI government scientist Frederic Whitehurst who testified that a forensic scientist who he trained and who was involved in the examination of material found at the blast site lied about the evidence he presented at both Nichols' federal and state trial. The Grand Rapids Press suggested in a May 20, 2004 article that the forensic scientist told a lie under oath when he testified, "that ammonium nitrate crystals found on debris was embedded by the force of the blast and the crystals came from the kind of fertilizer believed used in the bombing." Whitehurst's testimony shed some doubt on whether the material found during the search of Nichols' house was really that, which was allegedly used to make the bombs.
By May 21, 2004 the defense rested its case. Upon its completion, a total of 96 witnesses had taken the stand over a period of 11 days. The defense's case was significantly shorter than the prosecution's because the judge limited its, "ability to offer evidence of alternative suspects in the bombing," Tally reported on a May 21, 2004. Moreover, Talley suggested that many witnesses refused to testify on Nichols' behalf because they didn't want to support his case in any way.