Jury Selection Continues In Nichols Trial
Larry W. Smith  /  Getty Images
Terry Nichols enters the Pittsburg County Courthouse with officers Tuesday in McAlester, Oklahoma. 
By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/5/2004 7:51:44 AM ET 2004-03-05T12:51:44

When word of Terry Nichols' life sentence on federal convictions for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers got back to Oklahoma City, Darlene Welch responded with unbridled outrage. 

"We'll get him here in Oklahoma," she said literally biting off every word with anger. "If they don't get him in Colorado, as Americans, we'll take care of him here in Oklahoma."

Welch lost her 4-year-old niece Ashley in the bombing.

Welch and the other survivors and families got a pledge from the Oklahoma county district attorney that Nichols would be tried in Oklahoma on state charges for the other 161 deaths that resulted from the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The trial is now under way. Nichols could get sentenced to death by lethal injection if convicted.

Seeking a 'fair and impartial' jury
Jury selection for the trial began Monday at the main courthouse in the blue-collar town of McAlester, Okla., population 18,000.

There is a good chance that some, if not most, of the people that will eventually be picked for jury duty in the Nichols trial works at the state prison or the bomb factory in town (or is married to somebody who does). Those are two of the biggest employers in McAlester.

The Pittsburgh County Courthouse is about 80 years old. The courtroom is huge with high ceilings and old-fashioned bench seats.

On the first day, of jury selection about 150 prospective jurors crowded into the court room. The overwhelming majority of the prospective jurors are white, with a few Native Americans and Hispanics.

The judge is Steven W. Taylor, a thin no-nonsense jurist who drives a Dodge pickup truck to work.

The first day the clerk of the court read the names of 42 jury prospects who took seats inside the bar in the front of the courtroom.

Taylor asked them collectively, "How many of you have heard about this case?" All 42 of them raised their hands. The judge said his objective is to find a "fair and impartial jury" so that Nichols can get a "fair and impartial trial."

In 1997, Nichols was convicted in federal court of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of 8 federal agents in the bombing. Later the jury in the trial was unable to agree Nichols should be executed for his crime and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Also on Monday, Taylor read the charge against the small man with the nervous darting eyes. "There are 161 counts of first-degree murder, one count of conspiracy and one count of arson." With that, the trial officially began.

(On Thursday, defense lawyer Brian Hermanson objected to Taylor’s dismissal of a prospective juror who said she would not impose capital punishment.)

Families still seeking justice
Welch was in the court room the first day of the trial in McAlester. Later she talked to reporters outside the court house.

She is calmer now than back in 1997 went she heard the verdict in the federal trial of Nichols, but still determined to see that he dies for his crimes.

In the court room on the first day of jury selection Nichols was introduced to the first group of 42 prospective jurors and he mouthed the words "Good morning" to them. 

He seemed more relaxed than he usually appeared in pictures of him in the media. Welch was asked about his demeanor in court.

"He obviously doesn't think he's guilty," she said. "So why should he show remorse? I've said all along that he is going to have to answer someday when he stands before his maker and I'd just like that process to happen as soon as possible."

Jim Cummins is the NBC News Dallas Bureau Chief.


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