updated 6/2/2004 3:52:03 PM ET 2004-06-02T19:52:03

Two members of the jury considering sentencing for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols were dismissed by the judge Wednesday and were replaced by the last two remaining alternate jurors.

Judge Steven Taylor did not explain what the two jurors did wrong, but he strongly told the rest of the panel not to discuss the case outside of regular jury deliberations.

"Do not discuss sentencing," Taylor said following a one-hour closed meeting with prosecution and defense attorneys. "Do not allow anyone to discuss it with you."

Nichols has been convicted of 161 first-degree murder charges in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the jury is considering whether he should be executed or given a sentence of life in prison.

The same jury that is considering sentencing convicted Nichols May 26 just five hours after beginning deliberations. One of the jurors dismissed Wednesday was the jury foreman.

The composition of the jury remains six men and six women.

The trial began with 12 jurors and six alternates, but prior to the opening of testimony, three jurors were excused because they were distant relatives to a member of the prosecutor's staff. A fourth juror was excused last month after he had a heart attack.

More testimony was expected Wednesday in the sentencing phase, which began Tuesday, when more than two dozen witnesses _ many in tears _ testified about the parents, spouses and children they lost in the Oklahoma City bombing as prosecutors argued that Nichols should be put to death for his part in the attack.

But the defense urged jurors to consider all sentencing options in the case, including life in prison.

Nichols is serving life in prison on federal charges for the deaths of eight federal agents in the April 19, 1995 bombing, which killed 168 people. Oklahoma prosecutors brought the state murder charges for the other 160 people who died and one fetus whose mother was killed in the explosion.

During opening statements, attorney Creekmore Wallace said the defense will give jurors a glimpse of Nichols' life before and after the bombing, including his relationships with his two former wives, his three children and his large extended family in Michigan.

He said Nichols has never been a discipline problem in prison and has formed relationships with members of bombing victims' families as a prayer partner.

Prosecutor Sandra Elliott said Nichols deserves to die by lethal injection. Elliott said Nichols "constitutes a continuing threat to society." She also reminded the jury that "there were many, many, many others who came close to dying that day as well."

Clifford Cagle brought jurors, spectators and the prosecutor to tears when he testified about his injuries, including the loss of his left eye. Cagle worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the federal building's seventh floor.

"The left side of my face was crushed," said Cagle, who wept as he said he has had three surgeries to repair the damage.

Shelly Thompson Fravert said that Tuesday marked the ninth anniversary of the day she and her two older brothers buried their mother, an event she said left her with nightmares and suicidal thoughts.

Virginia Mae Thompson, a 56-year-old employee at the Federal Employees Credit Union on the building's third floor, was the last victim to be recovered from debris following the 1995 bombing.

Matilda Westberry said she has lived in fear since the death of her husband, Robert Westberry.

"I miss his touch and his smell," she said, choking back tears. "I miss him rolling over in bed and swinging his arm over me, just to know he's there."

Aren Almon-Kok spoke of her 1-year-old daughter, Baylee, who died in the day-care center. A photograph of Baylee's limp body in the arms of a firefighter was published worldwide.

"My daughter became a symbol of the bombing," she said, "but she was a real person, too."

Testimony began after Taylor ordered prosecutors to remove gruesome details of the victims' deaths and emotional testimony not specifically linked to the bombing from the prepared statements of victims' family members.

"There will be no memorial service for the victims in this courtroom," Taylor said. "I am here to guard against emotion taking over this trial."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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