By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/5/2004 6:37:24 PM ET 2004-02-05T23:37:24

The first of 1,000 questionnaires were mailed out to prospective jurors Thursday ahead of the trial of Terry Nichols, accused of the murder of 161 people in Oklahoma City. He faces the death penalty in a state trial that has reawakened memories of what had been the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Nichols is one of the two convicted Oklahoma City bombers. The other was Timothy McVeigh. They were convicted in federal court of killing seven federal officers in the Murrah building in the April 19, 1995, blast.

McVeigh was convicted of first-degree murder and put to death.

Nichols was convicted of lesser crimes — conspiracy and manslaughter  — and given life in prison. Now he must stand trial for the murders of the other victims of the bombing in state court.

The trial is set to begin March 1 in McAlester, Okla.

Old wounds
The trial has sparked a range of opinions from those most intimately affected by the worst terror attack in the United States until Sept. 11, 2001.

Bud Welch, who lost his 23-year-old daughter Julie, said the state trial is like "scratching scabs off of old wounds ... revictimizing the victims."

He believes the trial serves no purpose since Nichols is already serving a life term in the federal system and Welch is convinced an "overwhelming majority of people who live in central Oklahoma" agree with him that the trial is a waste of money.

‘Journey for justice’
Paul Heath,  a psychologist who was working inside the federal building the day it was bombed, feels differently.

He quoted from a statement issued by the Oklahoma City Bombing Survivors Association the day after Nichols was convicted of a lesser crime in federal court that the "journey for justice should go through the state courts."

Heath believes a state trial is necessary for the memory of the other 161 victims of the bombing. He has attended every pretrial hearing for Nichols in Oklahoma City and plans to attend the trial in McAlester, where it was moved to find a more fair and impartial jury.

Welch, for his part, has become an advocate speaking out against the death penalty.

He says he has traveled around the world giving speeches for his cause, which is in memory of his daughter. He has also been told that he will be called as a witness for the defense in the penalty phase of the trial.

Jim Cummins is the NBC bureau chief in Dallas.


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