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Terry Nichols convicted of 161 state murder charges

It took a federal jury 41 hours over six days to decide it could not convict Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols of murder for the blast that killed 168 people.
/ Source: The Associated Press

It took a federal jury 41 hours over six days to decide it could not convict Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols of murder for the blast that killed 168 people.

It took a state jury just five hours to find Nichols guilty of 161 counts of murder for the bombing that destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building _ charges for which Nichols could be sentenced to death.

Nichols' 12-member jury will begin deciding his punishment on Tuesday after jurors convicted Nichols on all charges for the April 19, 1995, bombing.

Nichols sat stone-faced and stared straight ahead as Judge Steven Taylor announced the guilty verdicts Wednesday. Nichols' six-man, six woman jury also convicted him of first-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson in the bombing.

Nichols' mother, Joyce Wilt, and sister, Suzanne McDonnell, seated in the courtroom near Nichols, also showed no emotion.

A female juror wiped tears from her eyes as the verdicts were read and several others appeared to have been crying. Prosecutors beamed as survivors and members of victims' families hugged and congratulated them.

"I'm just so thrilled for these families," said a tearful Diane Leonard, whose husband, Secret Service agent Donald R. Leonard, died in the bombing. "After nine years, the families who lost loved ones finally have justice."

The verdicts set the stage for the trial's second phase, when jurors will decide whether Nichols is sentenced to death by lethal injection or life in prison. The penalty phase is expected to last about three weeks.

"It will be another trial in and of itself," Taylor told jurors before he sent them home for the long Memorial Day weekend.

Prosecutors will question dozens of bombing survivors and members of victims' families about the impact the bombing had on their lives.

Members of Nichols' family are expected to plead for his life. Nichols, who did not testify in his own defense during the first phase of his trial, could still testify during the penalty phase.

Nichols, 49, was acquitted of federal murder charges in 1997 but convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter charges in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers in the bombing. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Oklahoma prosecutors charged Nichols in 1999 with the deaths of the 160 other victims and one victim's fetus.

Bombing survivors and victims' family members said the guilty verdicts vindicated state prosecutors who claimed Nichols shared equal responsibility with McVeigh for the bombing.

"He's responsible for everything. We'll take care of him one way or another," said Doris Delman, who lost her daughter, Terry Rees, in the bombing.

Prosecutors argued that Nichols worked hand in hand with executed bomber Timothy McVeigh, who he met in the Army, to acquire the ingredients and build the fuel-and-fertilizer bomb in a plot to avenge the government siege in Waco, Texas, that left about 80 people dead exactly two years earlier.

McVeigh was executed in June 2001, and until now was the only person convicted of murder in the bombing.

Prosecutors brought a mountain of circumstantial evidence during a two-month trial that included testimony from 260 witnesses. They said Nichols bought the explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer used in the bombing and stole detonation cord, blasting caps and other explosives.

The defense contended that others helped McVeigh carry out the bombing and that Nichols was the fall guy for a wider conspiracy.