by Bill Johnson
American Reporter Correspondent
Oklahoma City, Okla.
May 13, 2003
TERRY NICHOLS HELD FOR MURDER TRIAL
OKLAHOMA CITY, May 13, 2003 -- The man already serving a federal life term for conspiracy in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing was held over for state court trial Tuesday on 160 counts of first-degree murder.
Terry Nichols, a former Herington, Kan., farmer, lowered his head into his hands as Oklahoma County District Judge Allen McCall ruled there was sufficient evidence to bind him over for trial. Nichols has denied any involvement in the bombing.
The ruling came at the end of a seven-day preliminary hearing which brought forth evidence similar to that a Federal District Court jury heard in Denver before sentencing Nichols to life in prison. The question of whether Nichols should stand trial on murder counts had split the survivors and relatives of those who died in the April 19, 1995, explosion.
State prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty for Nichols. They also contended a state court conviction is necessary should Nichols at some time be released from federal prison after a successful appeal.
State and local law enforcement officers contend that Nichols helped Terry McVeigh accumulate the materials used in the truck bomb and helped McVeigh stash the get-away car. Although Nichols was at home in Kansas at the time of the bombing, prosecutors allege he helped McVeigh pack the bomb into the truck the previous day.
McVeigh was convicted by another federal jury in Denver of eight counts of murder and was executed two years ago. Although 168 peoplediedin the federal building, under federal law, McVeigh andNichols could be charged only with the deaths of the eightfederal agents who were killed.
Nichols, 48, was found guilty by the federal jury of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Arraignment on the 160 murder counts was set for 10 a.m. next Tuesday before Distinct Judge Steven W. Taylor at the Oklahoma County Jail.
The preliminary hearing had been postponed several times. Nichols' attorneys had complained they did not have enough money to properly prepared a defense.
As expected, the main prosecution witness was Michael Fortier, who is serving a 12-year federal term for knowing about thebombing plot and not notifying federal officials. Fortier testified Monday that he learned of Nichols' involvement from McVeigh. He said McVeigh told him "they were going to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City."
According to testimony, Fortier first met McVeigh and Nichols in the U.S. Army in 1988. He and McVeigh became close friends and visited in each other's homes. Fortier said that McVeigh, in the company of Nichols, showed him boxes of explosives stolen from a Kansas quarry
Fortier also testified that McVeigh told him Nichols had robbed an Arkansas gun collector. Prosecutors contended the guns later were sold to finance the purchase of the racing fuel and ammonium nitrate fertilizer they way composed the 4,000-pound bomb.
Nichols former wife, Marife Nichols, testified she became jealous of Nichols because her husband was spending so much time with him. She testified that two nights before the Oklahoma City bomb, she saw a shadowy figure outside her Kansas home. She testified she smelled the cologne used by McVeigh.
She also testified she was surprised to learn several months before the bombing that Nichols had several thousand dollars in cash and supplies. She said she believed at the time they were broke.
Others testifying included employees of a Kansas truck rental firm where the truck allegedly used in the bombing was rented.
The federal trials were moved to Denver after U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled the two could not receive a fair trial in Oklahoma because of the massive media coverage.
American Reporter Chief Correspondent Bill Johnson has covered the bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Bldg, in Oklahoma City since April 19, 1995 - nine days after The American Reporter opened for business as the first daily newspaper on the Internet. He died shortly after this story was written.