updated 6/15/2004 2:56:24 PM ET 2004-06-15T18:56:24

The state trial of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols was an enormous waste of time and money. 

Friday night, after a three-month trial, the state jurors announced they were deadlocked as to whether Nichols should get the death penalty.  That same jury had convicted him of 161 counts of murder.  The judge must now sentence him to life. However, Nichols is already serving life without parole in a federal prison after being convicted of manslaughter for the deaths of eight federal agents.

In February of 2003, I warned that spending close to $10 million on this effort could not be justified, particularly since the victims‘ families were divided as to whether they even wanted to endure another trial— and the Oklahoma County court fund is on the verge of going broke. The D.A. was quoted after the verdict claiming this trial was never about a sentence.  It was about justice and Nichols was held accountable.  For the first time he is now a convicted mass murderer. 

Well those are nice buzzwords, but if the maximum potential sentence had been life, they would not have pursued this case in the name of justice.  The reality is Nichols was serving life without parole.  All his appeals had been rejected.  Now he will serve, well, life.  All that has changed is that Nichols got a reprieve from the boredom by being removed from the confines of the most restrictive federal prison in the nation for a visit to Oklahoma. 

Now, with that said, I have long believed the initial federal jury verdict made no sense.  They only convicted him to involuntary manslaughter even though he clearly helped build the bomb and plan the attack.  He probably should have gotten the death penalty back then.  But the money spent on this effort could have been better used towards compensating the victims or even putting more police officers on the street.  It is just politicking or pretending to suggest something has been accomplished now that Nichols can be legally described as a mass murderer.  He was a killer who will spend the rest of his life behind bars. He is now a killer who will spend the rest of his life behind bars.  Nothing has changed for the better.    

Dan Abrams is the host of 'The Abrams Report.' His show airs weeknights, 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.


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