IMAGE: TERRY NICHOLS GOES ON TRIAL
Larry W. Smith  /  Getty Images
Terry Nichols is escorted to court in McAlester, Okla., on Monday, the first day of his trial on state murder charges.
updated 3/22/2004 4:15:46 PM ET 2004-03-22T21:15:46

Terry Nichols hated the U.S. government and worked hand-in-hand with Timothy McVeigh in the deadly bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

“These two were partners, and their business was terrorism,” Assistant Oklahoma County District Attorney Lou Keel said in opening statements in Nichols’ state trial. Proceedings got under way after two jurors and an alternate were excused by the judge, who blamed prosecutors for failing to disclose that they were distantly related to a local assistant district attorney.

Keel said Nichols purchased the fertilizer, which was used with fuel oil to create the bomb, and stole the blasting caps used to detonate the device from a Kansas quarry.

“This huge, monstrous bomb was detonated right in front of that building,” Keel said. He said those not killed in the initial blast died because of glass projectiles that were sent “flying like bullets” by the force of the blast.

Drill bit provides link, prosecutors say
Drill marks on a padlock at the quarry matched a drill bit found in Nichols’ basement, Keel said.

“He had more to do with gathering the various components of the bomb than did Timothy McVeigh,” Keel said.

The Oklahoma bombing

And he offered a motive.

“Terry Lynn Nichols had long been mad at the federal government,” Keel said.

He said the evidence will show that Nichols told his ex-wife, Lana Padilla, that he was angry at the government’s actions at Waco, Texas, in the deadly end to the standoff with the Branch Davidians, exactly two years before the Oklahoma City bombing.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001, for the bombing.

Opening arguments began after the two jury members and an alternate juror were removed. The judge criticized prosecutors for "inexcusable conduct."

Judge Steven Taylor excused the three because of their relation to Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney George Burnett. Burnett is not a Nichols trial attorney, but he had a consulting role in jury selection.

The trial will go on with 12 jurors and three alternates, instead of the six alternates originally selected.

Inexcusable conduct by the state’
"Unfortunately, the court's plan to have six alternate jurors has been cut in half due to the inexcusable conduct by the state," Taylor said.

Prosecutors learned of the problem on March 9 but didn't notify the judge about it until March 12, one day after the jury was seated. Burnett was born in McAlester and has many relatives in the area. It was not clear how prosecutors learned of the problem or why they didn't let the judge know of it earlier.

Taylor said that if there are further problems with the jury and he runs out of alternates, he will dismiss the case.

The state trial for Nichols, who already is serving a life sentence on federal changes, is expected to last four to six months.

Prosecutors have lined up more than 400 witnesses to testify against Nichols, who is charged in Oklahoma with 161 counts of first-degree murder.

Nichols, 48, was already convicted for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. The state charges are for the other 160 victims and one victim’s fetus.

Prosecutors allege that Nichols helped McVeigh plan and execute the April 19, 1995, bombing. Defense attorneys claim Nichols was set up by unknown co-conspirators.

Victims' relatives divided on second trial
Some of those directly affected by the bombing differ on whether the trial is necessary.

“The last nine years, I’ve just put my life on hold. Almost everything I do, it has something to do with the bombing,” said Jannie Coverdale, who lost two grandsons in the blast. “If Terry Nichols does not get the death penalty, we might as well abolish the death penalty in this country.”

Others oppose the trial because of its cost and the fact that Nichols is already serving life in prison. The case already has cost the state about $3.4 million, not including prosecution expenses and security costs.

“We think it’s a waste of money, a waste of time. This is a black mark on our justice system,” said Jim Denny, whose two children were injured in the explosion.

Bud Welch, a death penalty opponent whose daughter, 23-year-old Julie Marie Welch, was killed, said the trial “has nothing to do with the healing process.”

“Family members are being victimized again,” he said.

Jury seated after nine days of questioning
The jury of six men and six women was seated March 11 after nine days of questioning about whether they could be fair and impartial, and could consider sentencing Nichols to death if he is convicted.

Other possible penalties if he is found guilty include life in prison without parole or life with the possibility of parole.

Nichols was at his home in Herington, Kan., the day the bomb went off. Prosecutors allege that Nichols worked with McVeigh to prepare the 4,000-pound bomb and helped McVeigh pack it inside a Ryder truck.

Prosecutors say Nichols robbed Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore in November 1994 to help finance the bomb plot. Defense attorneys believe the robbery was committed by members of a gang of white supremacist bank robbers who may have helped McVeigh.

Nichols’ attorneys contend that more than a dozen FBI documents that raise the possibility of such a link were not turned over by state prosecutors or the federal government for Nichols’ murder trial.

The documents, which were cited in a recent series of Associated Press stories, include two 1990s teletypes from then-FBI Director Louis Freeh’s office citing possible connections between McVeigh and a gang of white supremacist bank robbers, the lawyers said.

Authorities say the bombing was a plot to avenge the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, that killed 80 people. The bombing occurred on the raid’s second anniversary.

McVeigh was executed in 2001.

Nichols’ state trial was moved to McAlester, about 130 miles from Oklahoma City, because of pretrial publicity. A handful of survivors and victims’ family members came for jury selection, and more are expected when testimony begins.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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