Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols: Oklahoma Bombing
By Rachael Bell
During the last week of May, both the defense and the prosecution presented their closing arguments. The arguments, which lasted approximately eight hours, were followed by jury deliberations. It took only five hours for the jury to return its verdict.
On May 27, 2004 the jury announced to the court that it found Nichols guilty of 161 murder charges, including 162 first-degree murder felony counts and two first-degree felony arson counts. As the verdicts were being read, the family members of many of the victims cried tears of relief.
For many, it marked the end of nine years of waiting. For Nichols, the verdict meant the possibility of receiving the death sentence. A separate trial was scheduled soon after the verdict to determine Nichols' sentence.
The second phase of Nichols' trial began during the first week of June, 2004. The defense presented the family members of many of the victims, who testified about their losses and how the deaths forever altered their lives. All of the testimonies were emotionally moving, bringing tears to many of the jurists' eyes.
One father spoke of his six-month old son who died in the bombing. A June 1, 2004 UPI article quoted Kevin Lee Gottshall saying, "We don't get to have any birthday parties for him. All we get to do is go to the cemetery and put something on his grave headstone." The article further quoted him as saying that his only comfort is that his son died instantly.
Survivors of the bombing also testified during the second phase of Nichols' trial, telling of their harrowing experiences that nearly ended in their deaths. A June 2, 2004 Newsday article reported on one woman named Regina Bonny who managed to dig her way out of rubble after the explosion. According to the article, Bonny described some of the victims of the blast including a man named Vernon Buster who "had a piece of metal sticking out of his side that she pulled out," and another man named Jim Skaggs who she tended to that had a hole in his head. They were just two of many of the wounded and dying that she saw on that dreadful day.
Surprisingly, in the middle of the prosecution's case the judge abruptly dismissed 2 of the jurors, who were replaced by alternates. A June 7, 2004 AP Online article by Talley stated that they were released because they had "improper conversations with each other about the case." The prosecution team who was seeking the death penalty was worried that the entire case would end in a mistrial if one more juror were excused. Just one and a half months earlier, a juror had suffered a heart attack and had to be let go. Luckily for them, no more jurors would be dismissed. Yet, their luck would be short-lived.