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Profile: Michael E. Tigar
Michael E. Tigar was a participant or observer in the following events:
The lawyer for accused Oklahoma City co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) asks Federal Judge David L. Russell to release his client without bail. Defense lawyer Michael Tigar calls the government’s evidence against Nichols “lamentably thin,” and says Nichols’s actions, particularly in connection with accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995), were innocent and typical of a “peaceable, law-abiding person.” Tigar, along with co-counsel Ronald G. Woods, is apparently following a strategy of attempting to distance Nichols from McVeigh, claiming that Nichols and McVeigh had a “falling out” in February 1995 over plans to work gun shows and swap meets together. According to court papers filed by Tigar, Nichols had printed up his own business cards and other material for a new business trading in military equipment that had no place for McVeigh. Tigar also assails the government’s investigation, accusing FBI investigators of withholding evidence from the defense, of holding Nichols’s wife Marife (see July - December 1990) “virtually incommunicado and without counsel” for “33 days of continuous interrogation,” and of refusing to interview witnesses with information favorable to Nichols. According to Tigar’s timeline of events, Nichols, knowing little to nothing of a specific bomb plot (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, April 19, 1993 and After, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 13, 1994, September 30, 1994, October 3, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, October 18, 1994, October 20, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, November 5, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, November 7, 1994, March 1995, April 13, 1995, and April 15-16, 1995), met with McVeigh on April 16 in Oklahoma City and drove him to Junction City, Kansas (see April 16-17, 1995). Prosecutors have stated that the day before, McVeigh told Nichols that “something big is going to happen,” impelling Nichols to ask if McVeigh planned on robbing a bank (see April 15, 1995). In Tigar’s timeline, this exchange never happened. Instead, Tigar’s timeline recounts a lengthy story of McVeigh calling Nichols on April 16 complaining of car trouble; McVeigh, Tigar claims, had a television set with him that belonged to Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla that Nichols wanted for his home in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). Nichols drove to Oklahoma City to get the television set. Tigar says that the Nichols family used the television set to watch a videotape of The Lion King and two other movies on April 17. In the days before the bombing, Tigar says Nichols took his family to a restaurant, picked up new business cards and labels, and, on the day of the bombing, visited a local hardware store and a military surplus dealer to discuss selling or trading Army tools, possibly for roofing shingles, and worked around his house. Tigar says Marife Nichols has confirmed this version of events. Tigar also says that prosecution allegations that Nichols used his pickup truck on April 18 to help McVeigh load fertilizer into the rented Ryder truck McVeigh used for the bombing (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) are false, and instead Nichols had loaned McVeigh his truck, and not accompanied McVeigh to the loading site at Geary Lake in Kansas. Tigar also says that a fuel meter owned by Nichols and believed by the prosecution to have been used to measure the bomb ingredients was broken the entire time Nichols owned it. [New York Times, 5/19/1995; New York Times, 5/25/1995] Later press reports will show that Tigar’s information about the supposed “falling out” between McVeigh and Nichols comes from Padilla. According to Padilla: “He said, ‘Tim and I are going to go our separate ways and I am going to the shows myself.’ That surprised me. They were going to go their own ways and it was because Terry was going to buy his own house and have his wife and baby come out. I don’t think that Tim could stand that. Terry also said that Tim didn’t like kids.” [New York Times, 8/6/1995] The prosecution counters with a request to hold Nichols without bail, citing evidence seized from Nichols’s home that implicates him in the bombing conspiracy (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), and a series of letters he wrote to the IRS and other federal agencies repudiating his citizenship and asking to be exempted from paying federal taxes (see April 2, 1992 and After). Prosecutors say the letters demonstrate Nichols’s repudiation of “roots to this country and its sovereign states” and that he therefore should be denied bail. “Nichols poses a danger to the community and an unreasonable risk of flight against which no conditions of release could adequately guard,” the prosecutors argue. Russell denies Nichols bail and orders him to remain in custody. Tigar says he will appeal the ruling. Russell also orders that Nichols be allowed to sleep without lights beaming into his cell 24 hours a day, and that prison officials not allow any more mental health professionals to interview Nichols without the court’s approval. Tigar has called a visit by a previous counselor “unwanted” and intrusive. [New York Times, 6/2/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1995]
Michael E. Tigar. [Source: Washington Post]The New York Times profiles Michael E. Tigar, the lead defense lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Tigar, a law professor at the University of Texas, has represented numerous unpopular defendants in previous proceedings, and like Nichols, many of those clients’ cases presented what the Times calls “unusual or complicated legal and political questions.” At the beginning of his legal career, Tigar represented leftists such as Abbie Hoffman, Angela Davis, and H. Rap Brown; during the 1969 trial of the “Chicago Seven,” Tigar, representing anti-war organizer David Dellinger, was briefly jailed for contempt of court. In later years, Tigar represented clients on the right of the political spectrum, including accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who had been accused of misusing her office as state treasurer. In the early 1980s, he helped win a $2.9 million judgment against Chile for the Pinochet government’s assassination in Washington of former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier. Michael J. Kennedy, who has worked closely with Tigar in the past, says: “He understands that the way we measure the value of our justice system is how it treats society’s pariahs. It’s easy to treat the popular people well. But what Mike understands is that the system will be measured by how it treats those people that the government considers to be despicable.” Tigar combines a strong knowledge of legal scholarship with a folksy, disarming courtroom style, according to the Times. [New York Times, 6/9/1995]
Federal prosecutors formally notify Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995) that they intend to seek the death penalty against him in his upcoming trial. Prosecutors send a letter to McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, advising that McVeigh will be indicted before August 11 with “one or more crimes potentially punishable by death.” The letter is signed by Patrick M. Ryan, the US Attorney in Oklahoma City. Government officials, including President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno, have said they would press for the death penalty against the person or persons responsible for the bombing (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995 and April 22, 1995). The announcement ends speculation that the prosecution might take the death penalty off the table if McVeigh pleads guilty and cooperates with the investigation. While the prosecutors can seek the death penalty, only the trial jury can impose it, if it so chooses. Jones calls the decision to seek the death penalty a “charade,” saying that the decision was made by Clinton and Reno months ago. In a response to Ryan, Jones writes, “For us to reasonably believe that any type of fair review is to be conducted would require us to accept that you, as a nominee of the president for the position you hold, and the attorney general’s Capital Review Committee, appointed by Ms. Reno, would reach a decision and recommendation which overrides the president and the attorney general’s own public commitment.” Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to invoke the death penalty against McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995). Nichols’s attorney Michael Tigar says he is preparing his defense as if it will be a death-penalty case. [New York Times, 7/12/1995] Two days later, defense lawyers for Nichols inform reporters that the federal government will also seek the death penalty against Nichols. [New York Times, 7/14/1995]
A federal grand jury indicts Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) on 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. Neither McVeigh nor Nichols are present during the hearing. The grand jury is only empowered to bring federal charges; the eight murder charges are in regards to the eight federal agents slain in the bombing: Secret Service agents Mickey Maroney, Donald Leonard, Alan Whicher, and Cynthia Campbell-Brown; DEA agent Kenneth McCullough; Customs Service agents Paul Ice and Claude Madearis; and Paul Broxterman, an agent in the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Both Nichols and McVeigh are expected to face 160 counts of murder brought by the state of Oklahoma; both will plead not guilty to all counts of the indictment (see August 15, 1995). The indictment levels the following charges:
on September 30, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols purchased 40 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate (2,000 pounds in total, or one ton) in McPherson, Kansas, under the alias “Mike Havens” (see September 30, 1994);
on October 1, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols stole explosives from a storage locker in Marion, Kansas (the actual date of the theft is October 3—see October 3, 1994);
on October 3-4, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols transported the stolen explosives to Kingman, Arizona, and stored them in a rented storage unit (see October 4 - Late October, 1994);
on October 18, 1994, McVeigh and Nichols bought another ton of ammonium nitrate in McPherson, Kansas, again using the “Mike Havens” alias (see October 18, 1994);
in October 1994, McVeigh and Nichols planned the robbery of a firearms dealer in Arkansas as a means to finance the bombing, and on November 5 they “caused” firearms, ammunition, coins, cash, precious metals, and other items to be stolen from gun dealer Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994);
on December 16, 1994, McVeigh drove with Michael Fortier to Oklahoma City and identified the Murrah Federal Building as the target of the upcoming bombing (see December 16, 1994 and After);
in March 1995 McVeigh obtained a driver’s license in the name of “Robert Kling,” bearing a date of birth of April 19, 1972 (see Mid-March, 1995);
on April 14, 1995, McVeigh bought a 1977 Mercury Marquis in Junction City, Kansas, called Nichols in Herington, Kansas, used the “Kling” alias to set up the rental of a Ryder truck capable of transporting 5,000 pounds of cargo, and rented a room in Junction City (see April 13, 1995);
on April 15, 1995, McVeigh put down a deposit on a rental truck under the name of “Robert Kling” (see April 15, 1995);
on April 17, 1995, McVeigh took possession of the rental truck in Junction City (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995);
on April 18, 1995, at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas, McVeigh and Nichols constructed the truck bomb using barrels filled with ammonium nitrate, fuel, and other explosives, and placed the cargo in the compartment of the Ryder truck (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995);
on April 19, 1995, McVeigh parked the truck bomb directly outside the Murrah Building during regular business hours; and
on April 19, 1995, McVeigh “caused the truck bomb to explode” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
The indictment accuses McVeigh and Nichols of plotting the bombing “with others unknown to the Grand Jury.” It does not mention the person identified earlier as “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995). The grand jury says it is confident others, as yet unidentified, also participated in the plot. Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “The indictment mentions unknown co-conspirators. We will try to determine if there are others who aided and abetted this crime.” After the indictments are handed down, Attorney General Janet Reno says: “We will pursue every lead based on the evidence.… [M]ost of these leads have been pursued and exhausted.… [W]e have charged everyone involved that we have evidence of at this point.” Prosecutors say that while others may well have been involved, the plot was closely held between McVeigh and Nichols. US Attorney Patrick Ryan has already announced he will seek the death penalty against both McVeigh and Nichols (see July 11-13, 1995), a decision supported by Reno (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995). A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, has pled guilty to lesser crimes regarding his involvement; Fortier has testified against McVeigh and Nichols in return for the lesser charges (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995), and defense lawyers are expected to assail Fortier’s credibility during the trials (see April 19, 1995 and After, April 23 - May 6, 1995, and May 8, 1995). Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar says, “Terry Nichols is not guilty of the allegations of which he is charged,” calls the case against his client “flimsy” and “irresponsible,” and accuses prosecutors of attempting to try his client “in the national media.” Periodically, Tigar holds up hand-lettered signs reading, among other messages, “Terry Nichols Wasn’t There” and “A Fair Trial in a Fair Forum.” Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Nichols’s brother James Nichols, who was indicted on three related explosive charges (see December 22 or 23, 1988, April 25, 1995, and May 11, 1995). US Attorney Saul A. Green says that “additional investigation failed to corroborate some of the important evidence on which the government initially relied.” [Washington Post, 8/11/1995; New York Times, 8/11/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 189-191; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 245; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, tells reporters after the hearing that he has been in contact with a man who, he says, told the government early in the fall of 1994 of plans to blow up federal buildings. This man, Jones says, was given a “letter of immunity” by the authorities in exchange for information involving a trip he had taken to Kingman, Arizona, Fortier’s hometown, and for information about his discussions with potential bombers whom, Jones says, the man had described as either “Latin American or Arab.” Jones refuses to identify the person to whom he is referring. [New York Times, 8/11/1995]
Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Cynthia Campbell-Brown, Alan Whicher, Stephen Jones, Donald Leonard, Claude Madearis, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Saul A. Green, Paul Broxterman, Paul Douglas Ice, Janet Reno, James Nichols, Kenneth McCullough, Joseph H. Hartzler, Michael Joseph Fortier, Patrick M. Ryan, Mickey Maroney, Michael E. Tigar
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Lawyers for Terry Nichols, accused of conspiring with Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and June 23, 1995), say that the government’s case against Nichols is built on a series of innocent coincidences, and accuse the FBI of unfairly pressuring Nichols’s family for information. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar and others on the defense team meet with US Attorney Patrick Ryan and Justice Department officials to argue that the government should not seek the death penalty against their client (see July 11-13, 1995). After the closed-door meeting, Tigar tells reporters that the FBI improperly recorded over 20 conversations Nichols had, including telephone conversations with his wife and mother, after his arrest (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). “We’ve already seen the results of the government’s search warrants, the many tape-recorded conversations that were surreptitiously recorded without his knowledge,” Tigar says. “In short, we’ve seen it all. And we didn’t see anything in there that says the government has evidence that Terry Nichols did this.” Nichols, Tigar says, is an innocent victim of circumstance.
'Reasonable' Explanations - Tigar says that Nichols has reasonable explanations for using false names to rent two storage units in Kansas in the months before the bombing. According to these explanations, Nichols left his job as a farm worker in Marion, Kansas, on September 30, 1994 (see (September 30, 1994)), and had nowhere to live. He needed somewhere to store his household goods until he could find another place to live. He stored some of his goods in a storage unit rented under the alias “Shawn Rivers”; though authorities say Nichols rented the storage unit under the alias, Nichols says that McVeigh rented the unit (see September 22, 1994; Nichols may have rented a separate unit for his goods). Nichols kept his furniture and other items in that locker until October, when he rented two units in Council Grove, Kansas, under the names “Joe Kyle” (see October 17, 1994) and “Ted Parker” (see November 7, 1994). Nichols, according to Tigar, used the false names because he had an outstanding civil judgment on his credit card debts and wanted to prevent seizure of his possessions. Tigar also has an alternate explanation for a letter Nichols left behind him when he traveled to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995): the letter, which was to be opened only in the case of Nichols’s death, instructed McVeigh to clean everything out of one unit and liquidate the other. But Nichols’s lawyers now say these instructions contained an additional phrase, not previously disclosed by the government: “or you will have to pay extra months rent.” Nichols, according to Tigar, wanted McVeigh to sell his goods and give the proceeds to his family if for some reason he did not return from the Philippines. Instead, Nichols removed the goods from the unit when he bought a house in Herington, Kansas, in early 1995 (see (February 20, 1995)). Tigar says that Nichols had grown disaffected with McVeigh, and the more he learned of McVeigh’s proclivity towards violence, the less he wanted to have dealings with him. Nichols wanted to go into business as a gun dealer for himself, Tigar says: He had business cards and mailing labels printed in his own name, rented a mailbox under his name, registered with the state of Kansas so he could collect sales tax, and bought a license plate and insurance for his truck (see May 25 - June 2, 1995). Everything found in Nichols’s home and garage, Tigar claims, was for use in Nichols’s business. The fuel meter found in Nichols’s home, described by investigators as a device that “could be used to obtain the proper volume of diesel fuel to ammonium nitrate for a bomb,” did not work, Tigar says, and could not have been used to mix bomb ingredients. The anti-tank rocket found in Nichols’s home was, Tigar claims, an empty throw-away tube that such a rocket is packed in. The bags of fertilizer in the house were to be divided for resale in 8- and 24-ounce bottles at gun shows. The diesel fuel he bought in the days before the bombing (see April 15-16, 1995) was to fuel the diesel pickup truck he used to drive to Oklahoma City and pick up McVeigh (see April 16-17, 1995). The plastic barrels found on Nichols’s property are often used for storage and are thusly unremarkable. [New York Times, 9/7/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Unreasonable Pressure - Tigar says that the pressure brought to bear on Nichols’s family members was improper and unreasonable. “To lie to Terry Nichols’s mother and say he’s not cooperating, and then to take her to the FBI office and record her as she talks to her son, I think is an outrage,” Tigar says. “To hold his wife for 34 days incommunicado and to tell her that the only way out for her husband is if she calls him up and reads to him a script written by FBI agents, I think is an outrage. Then to send his wife a Mother’s Day card signed by FBI agents saying they’re her only friends in the world and saying she should call the Kansas City field office if she ever needs to cry. What in the world are we coming to here?” The FBI also sent a Mother’s Day card to Nichols’s mother, Joyce Wilt of Lapeer, Michigan. Tigar gives reporters a copy of that card, which reads: “Please don’t believe that the government workers are the bad guys no matter what anyone tells you. We are here to help you. We are all here for you. If you are ever lonely, if you ever want to talk. If you ever want to cry, just call us. You are very special to us. You are a young girl caught up in something you don’t deserve to be in. We’re on your side. Think only about yourself and your kids.” [New York Times, 9/7/1995; Associated Press, 7/2/2005]
Lawyers for the accused Oklahoma City bombers (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) assail the prosecution’s decision to seek the death penalty against their clients. They say that Attorney General Janet Reno, who made the final decision to seek the execution of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols if they are convicted (see October 20, 1995), ignored Justice Department procedures in making that decision. “The government cannot simply ignore its own rules when it decides who lives or dies,” says McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones. Jones accuses Reno of “categorical prejudgment” of the death penalty. Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, calls Reno’s decision “two-faced.” Both note that within hours of the bombing, Reno announced the government would seek to execute whoever carried out the attack (see 4:00 p.m., April 19, 1995 and April 22, 1995); rules adopted in February 1996 allow the attorney general to seek the death penalty in federal cases only after informing defense lawyers and going through a review by an in-house Death Penalty Committee. US Attorney Sean Connelly counters that when Reno announced that “she would prosecute [the bombing] to the fullest extent possible, she was not acting as a judge, she was acting as a law enforcement officer.” Defense lawyers also argue that the 1994 federal death penalty statutes are unconstitutional. Connelly retorts, “If the death penalty is not appropriate in this case, it would be hard to imagine any case where it would be.” [New York Times, 5/2/1996]
Lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) ask the court to throw out evidence garnered against their client. Their reason: his wife, Marife Nichols, now claims she did not understand her legal rights at the time she let federal agents search her family’s home and car in Herington, Kansas. Investigators found a receipt for 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer used in the bomb, bearing the fingerprints of Nichols’s co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see May 1, 1995), guns stolen in a robbery investigators believed was carried out to finance the bombing (see Before July 3, 1995), and other evidence. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar says, “All consents obtained from Mrs. Nichols were tainted by oppression, coercion, intimidation, and duress.” Marife Nichols now says she spoke with FBI agents for about six hours once she and her husband went to the police station. She says she tried to cooperate with the agents because she wanted to end the questioning and go home. One of the agents, Eugene N. Thomeczek, “told me I had to tell the truth,” she says, and the other told her that if she answered, “Mr. Thomeczek will not ask questions again and again.” She says she could not go home, in part because her house was being searched, and later because she feared being harassed by reporters. She says she also wanted to retrieve $5,000 in currency, and nine gold and three silver coins she had hidden in the box springs of her mattress. All were kept in evidence and later returned to her. She and her daughter Nicole were taken to a hotel, and over the next 37 days they were moved from one hotel to another. During that time, she learned she was pregnant with her son Christian. “I felt confused,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do.” She says she did not realize that wives do not have to testify against their husbands and that she had the right to a lawyer. The lawyers also want to throw out Terry Nichols’s statements he made to the FBI during nine hours of questioning after he took his wife and young daughter to the Herington Public Safety Building (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols was not adequately appraised of his rights, Tigar argues, and says that the information gleaned from Nichols during the interview was obtained through illegal coercion. All information obtained from Terry Nichols, Tigar argues, is “fruit of a poisoned tree” and must be thrown out. Nichols had agreed from the outset to speak to FBI agents without a lawyer present. [New York Times, 6/29/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 256-257] Judge Richard P. Matsch will not throw out the evidence (see August 14, 1996), saying that defense allegations of “coercion” and duplicity are false. [New York Times, 8/15/1996]
Accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh, left, and Terry Nichols look on as Judge Richard Matsch orders their trials to be severed. [Source: The Oklahoman]Judge Richard Matsch orders separate trials for accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), in a ruling considered a victory for the defense. McVeigh will be tried first. Both defendants’ lawyers argued that to try the two men together would irreparably harm their right to receive fair trials. McVeigh’s lawyers, Stephen Jones and Robert Nigh Jr., wrote in a filing, “The government envisions a trial in which the actions and statements of Terry Nichols become indistinguishable from the actions of Timothy McVeigh.” And Nichols’s lead lawyer Michael Tigar argued that Nichols “stands in serious risk of being found guilty by ‘mass application’ if he was tried jointly with Mr. McVeigh.” Matsch rules that McVeigh could be harmed by introduction of statements made by Nichols implicating him in the bombing, and the defense’s inability to cross-examine Nichols if Nichols were to exercise his right to avoid self-incrimination. “The court cannot save a joint trial by sacrificing the interests of one defendant to protect the other,” Matsch rules. “Timothy McVeigh will be profoundly prejudiced by a joint trial in this case. His lawyers cannot question Terry Nichols or cross-examine the FBI agents on what they say Terry Nichols said. In short, Timothy McVeigh may be caught in cross-fire.” Tigar says after the ruling, “A separate trial will force the government to prove its case against Mr. Nichols, rather than merely rely on guilt by association and spillover prejudice from the case against Mr. McVeigh.” [New York Times, 9/8/1996; New York Times, 10/26/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Prosecutor Sean Connelly, presenting the government’s desire for a single joint trial, has told Matsch: “The proof will be unified: McVeigh and Nichols, Nichols and McVeigh, every step of the way.” [New York Times, 10/4/1996] Joseph Hartzler leads the team of attorneys prosecuting McVeigh (see May 22, 1995). [TruTV, 2/2009]
Defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) accuse prosecutors of misconduct in their handling of witness Thomas Manning, a Firestone tire store manager in Junction City, Kansas, who sold a car to accused bomber Timothy McVeigh days before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). Newly unsealed court documents reveal that Manning’s testimony has been a point of contention since November 1996. Manning has heart problems that might preclude his journeying to Denver to testify in McVeigh’s trial. A deposition was videotaped in Topeka on November 7. Manning had been interviewed eight times by government investigators and three times by defense investigators. His story remained essentially consistent regarding McVeigh’s arrival at his store at 9 a.m. with white smoke billowing from his Pontiac station wagon (see January 1 - January 8, 1995) and $300 in his pocket. But in the deposition, Manning added a detail: McVeigh left the store for 10 to 15 minutes and then returned. This absence could have given him time to make telephone calls that could connect him to the bombing, which killed 168 people. McVeigh’s lawyers say in a filing unsealed today: “If Timothy McVeigh had stayed at the Firestone dealership, as each of Mr. Manning’s previous statements suggest, he could not have placed the telephone calls that the government alleges were in furtherance of the conspiracy. This indicates that someone else placed the calls and that someone else committed the overt acts alleged in the indictment.” The defense is referring to calls found on McVeigh’s telephone credit card, issued under an alias, Darryl (or Daryl or Darrell) Bridges (see August 1994). The credit card record shows that someone made a 54-second call from the J & K Bus Depot, a block from the Firestone tire dealership, to co-conspirator Terry Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home at 9:51 a.m. Two minutes later, a caller using the same credit card from the same telephone called the Ryder rental office in Junction City and talked for 7 minutes and 36 seconds. Prosecutors believe that during the second telephone call, McVeigh rented the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995). Defense lawyers now say that prosecutors concocted the detail about McVeigh leaving the Firestone store and returning. Michael Tigar, the lawyer for Nichols, says: “The government has a room at the Marriott Hotel in which witnesses are transmogrified. I wish I had a room where I could do that to people.” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says Manning never mentioned McVeigh’s departure to defense lawyers because they had never asked him about it. In papers filed by the prosecution, the defense is accused of not asking Manning about McVeigh’s departure because it was hoping Manning would not mention it. The defense’s decision to avoid the question, the prosecutors say, does not require government lawyers to disclose that they had asked the question in at least one of their interviews and had received an answer that tended to incriminate McVeigh. Other papers unsealed today reveal that defense lawyers have accused prosecutors of obstructing the defense’s investigation, and of destroying exculpatory evidence surrounding the still-unidentified “John Doe No. 2,” a person some suspect of being McVeigh’s accomplice on the day of the bombing (see April 20, 1995). Prosecutors have said they doubt “John Doe No. 2” has any connection to the bombing. The prosecution interviewed David Shafer, an Indiana seed company salesman, about Nichols and his brother James (see May 22, 1995), and decided not to use his testimony. Defense lawyers say Shafer “has been directed by the FBI to destroy notes concerning his recollection of these events.” [New York Times, 1/4/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to bar the testimony of any witnesses challenged by the defense, and says there is no evidence that the FBI destroyed information or attempted to influence anyone’s recollections or testimonies. [New York Times, 2/21/1997]
Defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) seek to suppress the testimony of nine prosecution witnesses. Some of these witnesses are publicly identified for the first time, disclosed in court papers filed by the lawyers for defendants Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh’s trial is slated to begin in March. Some of the newly identified witnesses are:
Fred Skrdla, who worked at a gasoline station in Billings, Oklahoma, some 80 miles north of Oklahoma City, on the day of the bombing. Skrdla remembers a man driving a large Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) buying gasoline between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m (see (1:00 a.m.) April 19, 1995). The man paid cash. Skrdla says he was busy and does not remember if the man was alone or had company. When he saw composite drawings of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), he recognized one of them as the man who bought the gasoline. When he saw television coverage of McVeigh being “perp walked” out of the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma (see April 21, 1995), he became sure that the man he saw paying for the gasoline was McVeigh.
William Dunlap, who took his wife to work in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. Minutes before the bomb detonated in front of the Murrah Federal Building, Dunlap told FBI investigators, he drove past the building and noticed a Ryder truck parked in front of it. Dunlap said he saw a white man get out of the truck and walk to the rear of it. Dunlap said the man wore jeans, was in his mid- to late 20s, had “clean-cut” hair, a “medium” complexion, a slight build, and was between 5’8” and 5’9” tall. McVeigh is 6’2”. Dunlap told investigators he thought the man might have been McVeigh, but he was not certain.
Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, says the “saturation” news coverage of the crime and the arrests has “tainted” the ability of Skrdla, Dunlap, and the other witnesses to make accurate identifications of the person or persons they believe they saw. Jones cites information given to the FBI by David Ferris, a Junction City, Kansas, taxi driver who talked about a passenger he had on April 17, two days before the bombing. In early interviews, Ferris did not say that any of the passengers he had looked like McVeigh, and denied taking any passengers to the McDonald’s restaurant on South Washington Boulevard that day, where the investigators are sure McVeigh went (see May 9, 1997). Interviewers’ notes show that Ferris became emotional during the questioning, and tearfully said he “never picked up McVeigh.” The next day, however, Ferris changed his story, saying he took a man resembling McVeigh to the McDonald’s in question between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. on April 17. Ferris told agents that he had seen McVeigh’s picture on television and was “scared and panicked” after realizing who he was. Jones also contends that identifications of McVeigh by Eldon Elliott and Tom Kessinger, who rented the truck to McVeigh, were tainted by television news coverage of McVeigh; by the time Elliott and Kessinger made their identifications, Jones says, McVeigh’s face was so familiar “monks living on the mountainside in Tibet could have made the same identification.” Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, is attempting to suppress identification by an unnamed witness or witnesses who worked at the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson and, prosecutors say, sold fertilizer to McVeigh and Nichols (see September 23, 1994, September 30, 1994, and October 18, 1994). [New York Times, 1/13/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to bar the witnesses’ testimonies. [New York Times, 2/21/1997]
Entity Tags: Fred Skrdla, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Ferris, William Dunlap, Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Michael E. Tigar, Eldon Elliott
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The lawyer for alleged Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), Michael Tigar, asks that his client be granted a change of venue for his upcoming trial. Tigar argues that Nichols cannot receive a fair trial in Denver due to bomber Timothy McVeigh’s recent conviction and sentencing in that city (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). “Media coverage has now made it impossible for a jury in this district to make, if called upon, the reasoned moral response required by the cases,” Tigar argues in his brief. Tigar’s brief is accompanied by three bound documents filled with media coverage research. Prosecutors argue that Nichols can receive a fair trial: prosecutor Sean Connelly responds, “There is no reason to believe that Colorado jurors now lack the same ability fairly to decide Nichols’s guilt and punishment that was exhibited in the trial of his co-defendant McVeigh.” Tigar asks that the trial be moved to San Francisco; prosecutors say that Tigar wants the trial moved to a venue where the jury would be less likely to consider the death penalty if Nichols is convicted. Tigar’s arguments are much the same as those advanced by him and McVeigh’s legal team when McVeigh’s trial was moved from Oklahoma City to Denver (see February 20, 1996). “This community has come to share the characteristics identified by this court in its Feb. 20, 1996, opinion,” Tigar writes. [New York Times, 8/13/1997; New York Times, 8/14/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch will deny the request four days later. [New York Times, 8/16/1997]
Judge Richard P. Matsch denies a bid by lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) to disqualify US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan from serving in the trial. Ryan, the US Attorney from Oklahoma City, might cry during Nichols’s trial, Nichols’s lawyers argue, as he did during the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), and thus unduly influence the jury. Ryan wept during his questioning of a witness who was testifying about the death of a little girl in the bombing (see May 3, 1997). Ryan says of the questioning: “I recognize my voice quivered. I stopped for about 10 seconds to try to regain control.” Matsch asks Ryan, “Do you believe you can participate in the trial of Terry Nichols with the necessary detachment required of a trial advocate?” Ryan says that he can, and pledges “proper decorum” during the trial; Matsch then denies the request. Matsch does grant a defense request to hold a hearing about what use the FBI made of correspondence it had seized belonging to Nichols. Defense attorney Michael Tigar presents testimony that shows officials of the Bureau of Prisons made copies of Nichols’s correspondence with his son, Josh, his wife, Marife, his mother, and some close friends in Michigan. Tigar says he protested the handing over of that correspondence to the FBI. Prosecutor James Orenstein tells Matsch that prison officials had the authority to give copies of the correspondence to the FBI, but admits the correspondence gave them nothing useful. Matsch rules: “We’re entitled to find that out. We’re going to hold a hearing and find out what was done with the mail.” [New York Times, 8/14/1997]
The upcoming trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is expected to be fundamentally different from the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), according to a New York Times analysis. The charges against Nichols will be much the same—eight federal counts of murder and three conspiracy charges—but the case will include different evidence and different witnesses. Nichols was not in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing; according to his lawyer Michael Tigar, Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing conspiracy (see March 1995), and was at his Kansas home with his family on the days preceding the bombing as well as on the morning of the bombing (see May 25 - June 2, 1995). The evidence against Nichols is strong, prosecutors say, but mostly circumstantial. And the case will hinge on evidence not introduced at McVeigh’s trial, including Nichols’s alleged participation in a robbery that prosecutors say helped fund the bombing (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). Much of the evidence that will be introduced against Nichols derives from a nine-hour interview Nichols gave to FBI agents two days after the bombing, when he voluntarily turned himself in for questioning (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Notes from that interview were not allowed to be used in the McVeigh trial because Nichols could not be compelled to testify, but Judge Richard P. Matsch has ruled that they may be introduced against Nichols. Some discrepancies exist between the government’s timeline of events and the evidence, such as an April 16, 1995 telephone call that prosecutors say McVeigh made to Nichols from Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995); that phone call did not come from Oklahoma City, but from an outdoor pay phone near Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe Nichols lied to the FBI about the extent and purpose of his contacts with McVeigh in April 1995. [New York Times, 8/29/1997]
The federal trial of Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) begins. As with Nichols’s accused co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh, recently convicted of murder and conspiracy surrounding the bombing (see June 2, 1997), the trial takes place in Denver, and is presided over by Judge Richard P. Matsch. Nichols faces the same eight counts of murdering federal officials and three counts of conspiracy that McVeigh was convicted of, and like McVeigh, he faces the death penalty if convicted. [New York Times, 11/4/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury consists of seven women and five men. It includes two bus drivers; a day-care worker; a bank clerk; a soda machine installer; a telemarketer; a loading-dock worker; a maintenance employee; an obstetrics nurse; a remedial reading tutor; a contract seamstress, whose husband is a corrections officer; and a geophysicist. Two members of the jury are African-American. As with the McVeigh jurors, their identities are concealed. Legal analysts say there is far less direct evidence of Nichols’s guilt than existed to use against McVeigh. [Washington Post, 10/31/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Prosecutors tell the jury that Nichols worked “side by side” with McVeigh to build the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building. For his part, Nichols’s lawyer Michael E. Tigar says Nichols had nothing to do with the bomb plot, and is a victim of McVeigh’s deceit and a web of misleading circumstantial evidence. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey (see October 31, 1997) says that the deceit was on the part of Nichols. Mackey acknowledges that Nichols was at his Herington, Kansas, home on the morning of the bombing: “Terry Nichols had planned it just that way,” he says. But Nichols had been involved in every aspect of building the bomb and plotting the attack. The prosecution’s case is far broader in its scope than the more narrowly focused case against McVeigh (see August 29, 1997). Tigar indicates that he plans to challenge what he calls the “junk science” used by the prosecution to forensically prove Nichols’s involvement in building the bomb. [New York Times, 11/4/1997]
Prosecutors in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) link Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), to the October 1994 theft of explosive materials from a Kansas quarry (see October 3, 1994). The prosecution claims that Nichols and McVeigh used those materials in the construction of the bomb that devastated the Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people. A blaster at the Martin Marietta Aggregates quarry near Marion, Kansas, Allen E. Radtke, testifies that on October 3, he discovered that someone had stolen 1,200 to 1,400 electric blasting caps, 75 60-foot lengths of Primadet non-electric blasting caps, and 150 sticks of Tovex explosive from two sheds. On October 4, Radtke says, he found that someone had drilled open the padlock on the back door of a third shed. FBI analyst James J. Cadigan testifies that he had compared the marks left on the padlock with a quarter-inch drill bit found at Nichols’s home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Though the marks on the padlock seem to match marks made by Nichols’s drill bit, Judge Richard P. Matsch instructs the jury to disregard Cadigan’s conclusions to that effect. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar, who has called such analysis “junk science” (see November 3, 1997), says that a thousand drill bits made by the same machine might produce the same marks. [New York Times, 11/8/1997]
Michael Fortier, a friend of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), testifies against McVeigh’s alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997). Fortier tells the jury that Nichols and McVeigh took him to an Arizona storage locker filled with explosives seven months before the bombing (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). Fortier has pleaded guilty to four felonies related to the bombing.
Saw Nichols in McVeigh's Company, Changes Testimony Previously Identifying Nichols as Co-Conspirator - He says he saw Nichols three times in Kingman, Arizona, the town in which McVeigh resided; two of those times, Nichols was in the company of McVeigh. Fortier testifies that he met both Nichols and McVeigh when they were Army soldiers stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990); Nichols, he says, was his platoon leader, but not his friend. Fortier says McVeigh sent him a letter saying that he and Nichols planned some sort of “positive offensive action” against the government (see September 13, 1994), and later McVeigh told him the “action” was the bombing of a federal building, to take place on the anniversary of the Branch Davidian massacre (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He told me… that they were planning on bombing a building,” Fortier says. When asked by a prosecutor who was the “they” that McVeigh was referring to, Fortier replies, “He didn’t say specifically,” a drastic change from his testimony in the McVeigh trial, when he told the jury that McVeigh was referring to himself and Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
Says McVeigh Told Him Nichols Robbed Gun Dealer - Fortier does identify Nichols as the man who robbed Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994); Fortier says that McVeigh told him, “Terry did Bob,” meaning “Bob Miller,” the name Moore used at gun shows. [New York Times, 12/16/1997]
Says He Refused to Take Active Part in Bombing, Says Nichols Withdrew - Fortier testifies that McVeigh asked him to rent a storage unit under a false name, but Fortier did not do so. He also testifies that McVeigh asked him to join him and Nichols in the bombing, but Fortier says he refused (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Later, Fortier says, McVeigh told him that Nichols “no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb” (see March 1995), testifying: “Tim told me that Terry no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb. He told me that there was some problem between—or the problem had to do with Terry’s wife, Marife. I asked Tim what he was going to do if Terry didn’t help him. I made a joke and said: ‘What would you do? Would you kill him if he doesn’t help you?’ And he answered me seriously and said he would not do that. And he went on to say that Terry would have to help him because he’s in it so far up till now.” Fortier identifies a length of explosives brought to his home for safekeeping by McVeigh as being from one of the Arizona storage lockers; an FBI expert, testifying immediately after Fortier, identifies a fingerprint on the wrapper for the explosives as belonging to Nichols.
Defense: Fortier a Lying Drug Addict - In cross-examination, Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, elicits that Nichols never mentioned anything to Fortier about bombing a building. As defense lawyers did in McVeigh’s trial, Tigar depicts Fortier as a drug user and self-admitted liar who has admitted to lying to FBI investigators about his knowledge and involvement in the bomb plot (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), and to planning to use his knowledge of the bomb plot to wangle profitable book and movie deals. Fortier admits that Tigar’s depictions are essentially accurate. Tigar asks, “Was there ever a time in your life where Mr. McVeigh and you and Mr. Nichols were standing side by side… when Mr. McVeigh said, ‘My friend Terry and I are going to blow up a building with people in it and kill people?’” Fortier replies, “No, sir.” [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997] Legal experts later say that Fortier’s testimony against Nichols is much less compelling than his testimony against McVeigh. Fortier did not know Nichols well, and had comparatively few dealings with him. [New York Times, 11/17/1997] The Washington Post describes the defense’s cross-examination of Fortier as “withering.” One of the defense’s contentions is that Fortier was far more involved in the bomb plot than his testimony indicates, and that he may have been more involved than Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/14/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) links Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), to a rifle stolen from an Arkansas gun dealer, Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). Prosecutors have alleged that Nichols and McVeigh, who planned the robbery, used the proceeds from the robbery to finance the bombing. The link between Nichols and the robbery is made in part by Karen Anderson, Moore’s longtime girlfriend, who says the ornate, custom-made .308-caliber rifle found in Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) was hers. She says when prosecutors first showed her the rifle, she exclaimed: “It’s my baby!… It was made for me.” Anderson says she has been Moore’s girlfriend for over 20 years, and lives in what is apparently an open relationship with Moore and his wife Carol. Prosecutors say Nichols donned a ski mask and robbed Moore’s gun dealership of more than $60,000 in guns, precious jewels, gold, silver, cash, and other items. Anderson says she recognized several other weapons seized by FBI agents from Nichols’s home. Of one, a shotgun, she says: “I shot a pair of blue jeans with this a couple of times. Jeans with holes cost $100. I figured if you shot them yourself, you could save about $90.” Anderson’s colorful testimony and flamboyant gestures trigger several waves of laughter in the courtroom, including one instance where she apologizes for inadvertently waving a submachine gun at Judge Richard P. Matsch, saying, “I just pointed it at the judge again!” Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson quips in response, “No matter how mad he makes you, don’t fire it.” Anderson says she has a list of the serial numbers of many of the stolen guns; Moore previously told investigators his list of the serial numbers disappeared the day of the robbery. Anderson also discusses her friendship with McVeigh, and says she and Moore were so impressed with McVeigh’s warnings about a United Nations plot to take over the country that they visited several military bases in an unsuccessful search for Russian vehicles. After Anderson testifies, Moore testifies, telling the jury how he was robbed by a man who carried a shotgun, wore a black ski mask, and bound him with duct tape before purloining items from his farm, from which he runs his dealership. He says he was alone on his farm the morning of the robbery, and had just gone outside to feed the animals when he heard a voice say, “Lay on the ground.” He turned and saw “a horrible picture, a man dressed with camouflage, with a black ski mask, carrying a pistol-grip shotgun aimed right at my face.” Attached to the shotgun was a garrote wire that he says could “cut your windpipe and jugular vein.” The robber was a white man wearing what he thinks were Israeli combat boots, Vietnam-era camouflage pants and shirt, and military gloves. Moore says he could see a short beard and suntanned skin through the mouth opening in the mask. He identifies a number of weapons shown to him by prosecution lawyers as being among those stolen from his dealership. Defense lawyer Michael Tigar accuses Moore of conspiring with McVeigh to commit insurance fraud. Tigar asks Moore: “Isn’t it a fact you were not robbed? Isn’t it a fact that you and Mr. McVeigh worked out a plan to get these guns out on the market, and you would collect whatever you could from the insurance company?” Moore angrily responds, “I deny that.” He admits to seeking an insurance settlement even though he had no serial numbers for the stolen weaponry, nor an accurate accounting of the weapons he said had been stolen. He also acknowledges telling investigators differing accounts of the robbery, and engaging in friendly letter exchanges with McVeigh after the robbery, including one letter written by Moore in the days before the bombing that complained of the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) and stated, “Plan is to bring the country down and have a few more things happen, then offer the 90 percent a solution (Better Red than Dead).” He also admits to using the alias “Bob Miller” on the gun-show circuit, and admits to previously telling lawyers that he suspected law enforcement agents or militia members of robbing him. However, he says, he also suspected McVeigh of setting him up, and says that the letters were designed to persuade McVeigh to come back to Arkansas so he could question him about the robbery. [New York Times, 11/18/1997; New York Times, 11/19/1997]
Experts testify in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) that the bomb used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was probably made with ammonium nitrate. Prosecutors have shown that Nichols bought two tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and stored it, along with other bomb components, in lockers rented under false names (see November 6, 1997). In aggressive cross-examination, defense lawyer Michael Tigar attempts to cast doubt on the forensic evidence presented by the experts. FBI laboratory supervisor Steven G. Burmeister, who has already defended his findings on ammonium nitrate crystals found in a shard of wood he and other experts believe was from the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see November 28 - December 2, 1997), admits that nitromethane that, according to an FBI report, was found in Nichols’s home might have come from a container of model airplane fuel. Burmeister says that the evidence of nitromethane was found near model airplane parts; nitromethane is used in model airplane fuel. “When you reported out your results, did you report that you had found model airplane fuel and a model airplane?” Tigar asks, and Burmeister replies, “No.” Tigar then emphasizes: “You just reported you had found nitromethane. Right?” Burmeister responds, “The result was nitromethane and methanol.” Tigar continues to press, saying: “But did you take steps to make sure that people were going to understand that this was found right next to some model airplane parts? Did you do that?” Burmeister says he did not. British explosive expert Linda Jones, who testified in the trial of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), says she believes the bomb weighed 3,000 to 6,000 pounds and contained ammonium nitrate. Its other elements were apparently consumed in the explosion. The prosecution has called Jones as an independent expert because of widespread criticism of the FBI laboratory and its employees (see January 27, 1997 and April 16, 1997). [New York Times, 12/2/1997]
The mother of a woman killed in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) issues an angry statement demanding that accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see November 3, 1997) testify in his own defense. Marsha Kight, the mother of 22-year-old Frankie Ann Merrell, who died in the bombing, is incensed at media reports that Nichols will probably not testify in his own defense. Lead defense lawyer Michael Tigar says that while no final decision as to Nichols’s testimony has yet been made, his client is under no obligation to take the stand. [New York Times, 12/5/1997]
Marife Nichols (see July - December 1990), the wife of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), gives what analysts call a powerful defense of her husband during trial testimony. Her testimony is combined with that of three others to cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertions that Nichols conspired with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to build and detonate the bomb that killed 168 people. The defense, already having attempted to establish that an unidentified person and not Nichols conspired with McVeigh (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), now tries to allege that McVeigh was a member of a much larger conspiracy that federal law-enforcement officials never seriously explored. The indictments against both McVeigh and Nichols say that “persons unknown” may have assisted McVeigh and Nichols in the bomb plot. The Washington Post observes that while the others’ testimonies may have helped Nichols, Nichols’s wife’s testimony may have “done more harm than good.” The New York Times agrees, saying that her testimony “seemed to confirm some of the strongest evidence against him.” [New York Times, 12/11/1997; Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Mechanic Testifies to Seeing Five Men at Bomb Building Site - Charles Farley, a mechanic from Wakefield, Kansas, testifies that on April 18, 1995, around 6:00 p.m., he came across five men and four vehicles, including a large Ryder truck and a farm truck laden with bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, at Geary State Fishing Lake, near Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe that McVeigh and Nichols alone built the bomb at the state park sometime on the morning of April 18 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Farley says he later saw one of the men, an older man with gray hair and a beard, on television. A photo of the man is shown to the jury, but the man is not identified. Sources say the man is the leader of a Kansas paramilitary group.
BATF Informant Testifies - Carol Howe, a former informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995), then testifies, linking McVeigh to white supremacist Dennis Mahon and a group of Christian Identity supremacists living at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Howe says in the spring of 1994, Mahon took a call from a man he identified as “Tim Tuttle,” a known alias of McVeigh’s (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). Howe says she never told BATF or any other federal agents about the conversation because she did not know “Tuttle” was McVeigh. Howe also says she saw McVeigh at Elohim City in July 1994, in the company of two Elohim City residents, Peter Ward and Andreas Strassmeir. She says at the time she did not know McVeigh. After the bombing, Howe testifies, she told FBI investigators that Ward and his brother might be “John Doe No. 1 and No. 2,” the suspects portrayed in composite sketches circulated in the days after the bombing (see April 20, 1995). She testifies that in the days following the bombing, BATF agents showed her a videotape of McVeigh, and she told the agents she had seen McVeigh at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
White Supremacist Settlement Resident Testifies about Phone Call - Joan Millar, the daughter-in-law of Elohim City religious leader Robert Millar, testifies that on April 5, 1995, she believes she spoke to McVeigh on the telephone. Phone records show that McVeigh called a number in Elohim City on that date (see April 5, 1995). “When I answered the phone, it was a male voice,” she says. “He gave a name, but it wasn’t ‘McVeigh.’ He said that he had—he would be in the area within the next couple weeks and he wanted to know if he could come and visit Elohim City.” She says the caller was reluctant to explain how he knew of the settlement, then says he met some residents at a gun show. A man with “a very broad foreign accent” had given him a card with a telephone number on it, she says he told her. She asked if he had spoken to “Andy,” meaning Strassmeir, and the caller said that may be correct. Millar says the caller told her he would call again for directions, but never called back and never came to the settlement. Millar says that while Elohim City residents were angry and worried about the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), they planned no retaliation. Howe, however, testifies that she heard Strassmeir, Mahon, and Robert Millar advocate some sort of direct action against the federal government. Prosecutors have always maintained that Nichols and McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to avenge the people who died at the Branch Davidian compound.
Testimony of Wife - Marife Nichols testifies that she heard her husband talk about the Davidian tragedy with McVeigh and his brother James Nichols, but says she “did not see Terry being so mad about Waco.” Marife Nichols walks the jury through the events of April 21, when she accompanied her husband to the Herington, Kansas, police station to give voluntary statements about the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). She describes her husband as “pale and scared,” and says, “He told me his name was in the news and James Nichols was in the news, and they’re supposed to be armed and dangerous.” Her husband worried that they were being followed by “a black car” on their way to the police station. When he said that, she testifies, “I asked him right then, ‘Are you involved in this?’ and he said, ‘No.’” She testifies that before he returned from a November 1994 trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) he had told her that he was no longer having dealings with McVeigh (see March 1995). “I didn’t want Tim McVeigh in our life,” she says. [New York Times, 12/11/1997]
Cross-Examination Damaging to Defense Portrayal - Lead defense attorney Michael Tigar asserts that Marife Nichols’s testimony shows that “Terry Nichols was building a life, not a bomb.” However, under cross-examination, prosecutors quickly elicit details about the Nichols’s marriage that shows the two as distant and estranged, casting a new light on Marife Nichols’s attempt to portray their relationship as close and loving. She admits that for much of their seven-year marriage, they lived apart from one another, with her returning frequently to her home in the Philippines. She also admits that Nichols lied to her about breaking off his relationship with McVeigh, and that she suspected her husband was living a “secret life” that included numerous aliases and secret storage lockers, though she says as far as she knows, McVeigh was never in their home. She responds to questions about her husband’s shadowy activities by saying: “I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.” She recalls finding a letter to Nichols from McVeigh the week before the bombing, and though she says she did not understand the letter entirely, she remembers some phrases, including “shake and bake” and “needed an excuse for your second half.” US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan shows her a pink receipt found in the Nichols home for a ton of ammonium nitrate that prosecutors say was used to make the bomb, a receipt made out to “Mike Havens,” an alias used by Nichols to buy the fertilizer (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). The receipt was wrapped around gold coins found at the back of her kitchen drawer; federal analysts found McVeigh’s fingerprints on the receipt. Ryan places two gold coins on the receipt, fitting them precisely into two dark impressions left on the receipt, presumably by the coins. The coins belong to Nichols, and may have come from a robbery Nichols perpetrated to help finance the bombing (see November 17-18, 1997). On April 16, she says, Nichols told her he was going to Omaha, Nebraska, to pick up McVeigh, when in reality he went to Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995). Prosecutors have said that Nichols helped McVeigh stash the getaway car to be used on April 19 after the bomb was detonated (see April 13, 1995). He admitted lying to her about the April 16 trip just seconds before turning himself in on April 21, she says. She admits that Nichols had used a mail-order bride service to find her, and says he once told her, “Young ones were easier to train.” Marife Nichols was 17 when she married Nichols in November 1990; after they married in Cebu City, Philippines, he left her there and returned to the US without her, only bringing her to America months later. She says that she could not remember the exact date of their wedding. She also admits that when she joined Nichols in July 1991, she was pregnant with another man’s child. That child was found in 1993 dead with a plastic bag wrapped around his head; his death was ruled an accident. The two have two more children together. She is unable to offer an alibi for Nichols’s whereabouts on the morning of April 18, when prosecutors say he helped McVeigh construct the bomb. In saying she knew nothing about the storage lockers rented under aliases, she seems to contradict Tigar’s previous assertions that the storage lockers were used for storing innocent items and Nichols chose to use aliases merely to avoid creditors (see November 3, 1997). She also contradicts Nichols’s statements to the FBI that he had not seen McVeigh for months before the bombing.
Defense Rests - After Marife Nichols’s testimony concludes, the defense rests. The Post observes: “The defense’s eight-day case was aimed at generating confusion among jurors by poking holes in the government’s scenario, with the specter of additional accomplices and a second Ryder truck. At times, it seemed like the defense was trying to put the mysterious suspect John Doe No. 2—who was never identified and never found—on trial, instead of Nichols.” Nichols does not testify in his own defense.
Prosecutors Rebut Testimonies - The prosecution offers a brief rebuttal to the testimonies of witnesses who say they saw the Ryder truck at Geary Park earlier than April 17. State park employee Kerry L. Kitchener testifies that in April 1995, he was conducting a fishing survey at the park, and he saw no Ryder truck on April 10, 11, 13, 16, or 17, dates when defense witnesses said they had seen such a truck there. He testifies that he was not at the park on April 18, when prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh built the bomb there in a Ryder truck. [Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Charles Farley, Washington Post, Elohim City, Carole Howe, Andreas Strassmeir, Terry Lynn Nichols, Robert Millar, Timothy James McVeigh, Patrick M. Ryan, Kerry L. Kitchener, Joan Millar, Marife Torres Nichols, Michael E. Tigar, James Nichols, New York Times, Peter Ward
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The prosecution and defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) give their closing statements.
Prosecution: Nichols an Eager Participant - Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson tells the jury that even though Nichols was at home on the day of the bombing, he was an eager participant in the bomb plot, and shares the violent anti-government views of his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Like McVeigh, she says, Nichols wanted to strike back at the federal government for its role in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He intended death, destruction, and chaos in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995,” she says. His favorite quote is from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” However, “Thomas Jefferson never bombed a day care center.” Nichols was involved in the plot from its inception in September 1994, when he left his job on a Kansas ranch “to begin gathering bomb components” (see September 13, 1994 and September 23, 1994), Wilkinson says. Nichols used aliases, such as “Mike Havens,” to purchase several tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a key component in the bomb (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). He took part in the robbery of a quarry to secure explosives and explosive components (see October 3, 1994), and took part in the purchase of three barrels of nitromethane racing fuel from a Texas dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Nichols also robbed an Arkansas gun dealer to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), a fact confirmed by testimony given by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see November 12-13, 1997) and by the FBI finding items taken in that robbery in Nichols’s possession (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols and McVeigh had assembled most of what they needed by November 1994, she says, when Nichols went to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995); after that point, she says, “all they had to do was wait.” When Nichols returned from his trip, they resumed their activities, using sales of guns and ammonium nitrate at gun shows to give themselves alibis. In contrast to a claim made in the opening statement by Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, she says Nichols was not building a life, “he was building a bomb, and he was building an alibi.” Wilkinson says that witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with an unidentified person, and not Nichols, in the days before the bombing (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), were just plain wrong. Referring to the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2,” she says: “As a result of the media frenzy, sightings of John Doe 2 were about as common and credible as sightings of Elvis. No one is telling you Tim McVeigh was never with anyone else. The issue here is, who is on trial? John Doe 2 is not on trial. Tim McVeigh is not on trial. This is the trial of Terry Nichols.” Concluding the prosecution’s close, lead prosecutor Larry Mackey tells the jury, “It’s finally time—it’s time for justice” in what he calls “America’s most horrific crime.”
Defense: Nichols Victimized by Government - Tigar tells the jury that Nichols is the victim of a farrago of errors and circumstance; the evidence against him, Tigar says, is comprised of dishonest witnesses, sloppy investigation, and misleading circumstantial evidence. “It’s kind of like a stick on the ground, as Sherlock Holmes told Watson,” Tigar says. “If you stand here and look, it seems to point there. But if you walk around to the other side, it points in the opposite direction.” A fellow defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, attacks the government’s case, saying, “Anything that differs from the government’s theory, they discount, put aside, ridicule.” The witnesses who saw other men in McVeigh’s company during key moments in the bomb construction timeline were neither wrong nor mistaken, he says. Neither Tigar nor Woods refer at any length to the testimony of Nichols’s wife Marife, which is largely viewed as damaging to their client (see December 10-11, 1997). Tigar continues his previous attack on Fortier, saying: “Michael Fortier is the only witness who says he ever heard anyone say they wanted to bomb the Murrah Building. His testimony was bought and paid for, not with money but with a coin that only the government has the ability to print and hand out, and that is immunity from punishment.” Tigar says that Fortier was far more of a conspirator in the McVeigh plot than Nichols, and accuses the government of turning Fortier from a co-conspirator into a witness. Woods accuses the FBI of manipulating and fabricating witness testimony. Tigar concludes tearfully: “One hundred sixty-eight people died in Oklahoma City. We have never denied the reality of that.” But this is a nation that promises equal justice under law, he says, “rich or poor, neighbor or stranger, tax protester or not, someone who’s different from us, or not.… Members of the jury, I don’t envy you the job that you have,” he says, placing his hand on Nichols’s shoulders. “But I tell you, this is my brother. He’s in your hands.” [New York Times, 12/16/1997; New York Times, 12/17/1997]
Accused Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 15-16, 1997) is convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. He is found not guilty of use of a weapon of mass destruction (see April 16-17, 1995), and of using an explosive, as well as the more serious charges of first-degree and second-degree murder. The jury took 41 hours over six days to decide Nichols’s fate (see December 16-18, 1997). By rejecting the murder charges in the deaths of eight federal law-enforcement officials, the jury concludes that Nichols did not provably intend to kill the people inside the Murrah building. Observers and researchers such as law professor Douglas O. Linder will later conclude that the jury believed the defense’s contention that Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing plot (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), and was probably swayed by Nichols’s decision to stay home on the day of the bombing instead of joining convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City (see June 2, 1997) at the bomb site. The jury may also have been moved by Nichols’s show of emotion during the trial; unlike the stoic McVeigh, Nichols broke down and wept during several moments in the proceedings. Legal analysts say the split verdict is in part because of a much more effective defense (see December 2, 1997) than that presented by Nichols’s co-conspirator, McVeigh (see August 14-27, 1997), who was sentenced to death for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997). Kentucky defense lawyer Kevin McNally says of the verdicts: “[They mean] he had a much less culpable state of mind regarding the homicides. To the jury, he engaged in certain actions that were reckless, but it wasn’t a premeditated killing.” Former federal prosecutor Marvin L. Rudnick says the jury “probably compromised” on the involuntary manslaughter verdicts. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey says: “The jury has spoken. We accept their verdict in its entirety. We are prepared to go forward now with the penalty phase.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, immediately files an appeal and says he will challenge any attempt by the jury to sentence Nichols to death. However, analysts feel that Nichols will escape execution. Denver attorney Andrew Cohen says: “I would be very surprised if the jury sentenced Nichols to death. They distinguished in their own minds what both men did.” Both McVeigh and Nichols face 160 counts of murder in an Oklahoma state court. [New York Times, 12/23/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; New York Times, 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Under federal law, a conviction of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction can lead to the death penalty. The law is only three years old and has never been used. This death penalty provision was passed by Congress in 1994 after the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York (see February 26, 1993). [New York Times, 12/25/1997]
Mixed Reactions - Predictably, reactions regarding the verdict are mixed. Claudia Denny, whose two children were seriously injured in the blast, says, “We’re all disappointed, but we can live with it.” She says she would have preferred murder convictions, but “one more terrorist is off the street.… The important thing to us now is our children. This doesn’t change that. It doesn’t matter.” Bud Welch, who lost his daughter in the bombing, says that the involuntary manslaughter convictions were inappropriate because that charge is what people get “for running a stoplight” and killing someone with a car. Diane Leonard, whose husband was one of the eight law enforcement agents killed, calls the verdict “a slap in the face.” Marsha Knight, whose daughter was one of the 160 civilians killed in the blast, says: “He conspired to build the bomb. What the hell did they think he was going to do with it?” [New York Times, 12/24/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997] President Clinton says the convictions of McVeigh and Nichols “should offer a measure of comfort” to the relatives of the victims. But, he adds, “I know that no verdict in a court of law can ease the loss of a loved one.” [New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Judge Offers Leniency, Nichols Turns Down Offer - Judge Richard Matsch later tells Nichols he will consider some leniency in sentencing him to prison if he cooperates in helping the government learn more about the bombing conspiracy. Nichols rejects the offer. [Indianapolis Star, 2003]
Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Kevin McNally, Bud Welch, Douglas O. Linder, Claudia Denny, Diane Leonard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Marvin L. Rudnick, Timothy James McVeigh, Marsha Knight, Michael E. Tigar, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Larry A. Mackey
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
After two days of deliberations and testimony, the jury in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997) deadlocks on whether Nichols should be sentenced to death (see October 20, 1995). The task of sentencing Nichols now falls to US District Judge Richard Matsch, who excuses the jury and begins considering the sentencing himself. Matsch has the option of sentencing Nichols to life in prison, or to a lesser term. Both Nichols and his partner, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), face murder charges in the state of Oklahoma. The prosecution put on witnesses who provided graphic, emotional testimony about the carnage and personal losses caused by the blast, while the defense painted Nichols as a loving family man who became caught up in a conspiracy he could not control. Prosecutors, already displeased by the jury’s failure to find Nichols guilty of first-degree murder, are further dismayed by the jury’s actions. Some relatives of the bombing victims, many of whom have attended every day of the trial, leave the courtroom in tears. Jury forewoman Niki Deutchman says: “I think he was building a life; he may also have been building a bomb. I don’t know.… The government wasn’t able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a whole lot of the evidence. The government didn’t do a good job of proving Terry Nichols was greatly involved in this.” She says some jurors did not believe that Nichols was an equal partner in the bombing with McVeigh, and some believe his role to be peripheral at best. The prosecution’s case, Deutchman says, had large holes which some jurors believe preclude a death sentence. “There were a lot of specific acts [alleged by the government] that I had doubts about,” she says. The FBI came across as “arrogant” and “sloppy” in its investigation, Deutchman says, and notes: “I think the government’s attitude… is part of where all this comes from in the first place. I think maybe it’s time the government be more respectful… and not with the attitude that we know and you don’t, we have the power and you don’t.” Other jurors cite the failure of FBI agents to tape-record their initial interrogation of Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) as one of many troublesome acts carried out by law enforcement officials. Diane Leonard, who lost her husband in the bombing, expresses her horror at the failure to impose the death sentence, saying: “At the verdict, I felt like a knife was piercing my chest. In any civilized society, death is the only appropriate punishment for such an horrendous act.” Other relatives of the victims call the jury inept and unfair. Matsch praises the jury, saying: “You worked at it; there’s no question about it. The result here will be subject to comment by many. There will be some who will criticize it. There will be some who praise it. You know that you are answerable to no one for your decisions.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, says, “The jury has spoken, and the judge in summarizing this proceeding has given everybody an invaluable object lesson on how the American justice system works.” Denver lawyer Scott Robinson, who has attended the trial as a media commentator, reminds onlookers: “You can make any calculation you want; Terry Nichols is not going home any time soon or ever. I call it a Methuselah sentence. Only Methuselah would live to see the light of day.… It’s not a crushing defeat for the prosecution. If people view it as that, shame on them.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1997; New York Times, 12/30/1997; New York Times, 1/2/1998; Boston Globe, 1/8/1998; New York Times, 1/8/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Analysts, Oklahoma Governor Weigh In - Denver attorney Andrew Cohen, like Robinson and other legal analysts, says the outcome is understandable. “You had far less evidence against Nichols than you had against McVeigh and I think that’s the ultimate truth about this Nichols trial,” he says. “I think that justice was served in the first trial and, I think, that the result of this Nichols trial, when the judge sentences Nichols, will be about as close to justice as I can imagine.” Law professor Christopher Mueller notes that Nichols wasn’t in Oklahoma City when the bomb was detonated (see March 1995 and April 16-17, 1995), and defense lawyers were skillful in casting doubt on whether Nichols actually helped McVeigh assemble the bomb (see April 15-16, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995)). “A verdict of death for Timothy McVeigh and a verdict of a long prison term for Terry Nichols is a just outcome,” he says. Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating is sharply critical of the failure to sentence Nichols to death. “This was the most monstrous act of terrorism ever in the history of the United States,” he says. “The people who did this deserve the death sentence and certainly life in prison—and that hasn’t happened here yet.” Vera Chubb, who served on McVeigh’s jury, is dismayed by the outcome. “They [McVeigh and Nichols] had two years to plan this. If I knew of a friend or anyone that I thought was going to do this horrendous crime, I would have said something,” she says. “I was completely dismayed by this jury.” [Associated Press, 1/11/1998] Keating adds that he is “disappointed with the jury. They were expected to make this decision. This is what juries are supposed to do, and they walked away from it. I’m cautiously optimistic that Judge Matsch, who is a tough, no-nonsense, fact-filled, moral judge will make a decision to impose a life sentence on Nichols. We do have a backup prosecution in Oklahoma which, of course, I support, and we’ll wait and watch and see what happens.” [New York Times, 1/8/1998]
Entity Tags: Frank Keating, Christopher Mueller, Andrew Cohen, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Diane Leonard, Vera Chubb, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard P. Matsch, Scott Robinson, Michael E. Tigar, Niki Deutchman
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Terry Nichols, the white separatist convicted of participating in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 23, 1997), refuses an offer of leniency in his upcoming sentencing, an offer contingent on his cooperation in the FBI’s continuing investigation of the bomb plot. In a brief filed by his lawyers, Nichols says any such cooperation would help the state of Oklahoma convict him on 160 counts of murder relating to the bombing. He does offer to look over the thousands of pages of government evidence in an attempt to help the government pinpoint any other suspected participants. Judge Richard Matsch has said he would sentence Nichols to life in prison unless Nichols cooperates with the FBI. Nichols’s lawyer Michael E. Tigar has said that Nichols still faces a state murder investigation in Oklahoma, and “whatever he says falls into hands that do not have his best interests at heart.” [New York Times, 3/26/1998; Washington Post, 4/21/1998]
Judge Richard P. Matsch sentences convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997) to life in prison without the possibility of parole after his jury cannot decide whether to sentence him to death (see January 7, 1998). He is also sentenced to eight concurrent six-year terms for the deaths of eight federal agents. Matsch orders Nichols to pay $14.5 million in restitution to the General Services Administration (GSA) for the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building. Nichols swears he has only $40,000 in assets; Matsch says that any future proceeds he might receive for selling his story would be given over to the government. Nichols’s defense team tried in vain to assert that Nichols was a “dupe” of fellow defendant Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and should be given a lighter sentence. Nichols, who refused to provide information about the bombing plot, gave Matsch a written apology (see March 10, 1998). Matsch says Nichols committed an act of treason that demands the most severe punishment: “The only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is that the purpose of the plan was to change the course of government through fear and intimidation.… The evidence shows to my satisfaction that the intention was to disrupt, to disorganize, to intimidate the operations of these agencies and United States government. Apparently, the intention was that the response would be fear and terror and intimidation and that these people would not be able to perform their work and that the response throughout the nation would be hysteria.… But you know, it didn’t work out that way. There was no anarchy. There was no reign of terror.… What occurred was that a community became even more united, and I think perhaps the country as well. We proceeded with the orderly processes of recovery and of restoration.… What he did was participate with others in a conspiracy that would seek to destroy all of the things that the Constitution protects. My obligation as a judge is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Terry Nichols has proven to be an enemy of the Constitution, and accordingly the sentence I am going to impose will be for the duration of his life. Anyone, no matter who that person might be or what his background might be, who participates in a crime of this magnitude has forfeited the freedoms that this government is designed to protect.” Prosecutors say they are pleased with the sentence, while Nichols’s defense lawyers continue to assert that Nichols did not intend to kill anyone in the bombing. Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, files papers calling for a new trial; Matsch says he will schedule a hearing. Marsha Kight, whose daughter Frankie Ann Merrell was killed in the bombing, says: “I’m proud of what happened in the judicial system. I felt like singing ‘God Bless America.’ He got what he deserved.” [Chicago Tribune, 6/5/1998; Washington Post, 6/5/1998; New York Times, 6/5/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Nichols will serve his term in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Nichols refused an offer of leniency in return for his cooperation in further investigation of the bombing (see April 21, 1998).
Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) asks a federal appeals court in Denver for a new trial, contending that Judge Richard P. Matsch, who presided over his trial, made a number of reversible errors in both the trial and sentencing. Nichols’s co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) has also asked for a new trial (see January 16, 1998), a request that was denied (see September 8, 1998). Nichols’s legal team, Michael Tigar, Susan L. Foreman, and Adam Thurschwell, argue that Matsch erred in the instructions he gave the jurors, in the testimony he permitted, and in his interpretation of federal sentencing guidelines. According to Nichols’s lawyers, Matsch erred when he told the jury that Nichols’s responsibility for the deaths of people killed as a result of the bombing conspiracy (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) did not depend on proof that Nichols intended to kill anyone. An intent to kill, Nichols’s lawyers contend, is a necessary element in the offense. The jurors who convicted Nichols of conspiracy acquitted him of blowing up the building and of first- or second-degree murder in the deaths of the officers. They also contend that Nichols should have been sentenced under federal guidelines for arson and property damage, not first-degree murder, and that the restitution order of $14.5 million is punitive. [New York Times, 11/22/1998]
Michael E. Tigar, the lead defense attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998), says evidence given to the defense near the end of the federal trial provided enough information about another suspect to warrant a new trial (see March 31 - April 12, 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 16-19, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 17-21, 1995, (6:00 p.m.) April 17, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 7:00 p.m. April 18, 1995, April 18, 1995, and Early Morning, April 19, 1995). “Government counsel argued that Mr. Nichols mixed the bomb and that he was with [fellow conspirator Timothy] McVeigh for long periods on April 17 and 18,” Tigar states (see April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15-16, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and Early Afternoon, April 18, 1995). “The withheld evidence contradicts this key government theory.” Tigar called a number of witnesses who said they saw McVeigh with an unknown suspect known as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995) and/or other people during key periods in the days and weeks leading up to the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Tigar will demand those documents for his new trial request. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] Judge Richard P. Matsch, who presided over the first trial, will deny Nichols’s request. [New York Times, 9/14/1999] In December 2000, a federal appeals court will also deny the request. [New York Times, 12/19/2000]
Lead defense lawyer Brian Hermanson. [Source: Corbis / TruTV]Michael E. Tigar, the former lead attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see June 4, 1998) who now faces a state trial on 161 counts of first-degree murder (see March 1, 2004), joins Nichols’s current defense team in speculating that the bombing may have been carried out by a larger group of white supremacists, of which Nichols was only a minor member and perhaps little more than a scapegoat. While prosecutors say they have “an avalanche of evidence” showing Nichols’s heavy involvement, defense lawyers led by Brian T. Hermanson say that Nichols and his cohort, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), were part of the purported larger conspiracy. McVeigh, Hermanson argues, “conspired with others whose identities are still unknown” and “orchestrated various events and evidence so as to make it appear that Mr. Nichols was involved and, thereby, direct attention away from others.” Some evidence exists of McVeigh’s involvement with the violent white supremacist group Aryan Republican Army (ARA—see 1992 - 1995 and November 1994) and it is possible that McVeigh took part in bank robberies the group carried out. Tigar says, “Is it too bad they killed Tim?” referring to McVeigh’s execution (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001). “If they really wanted to find out what happened, maybe some of the revelations, now that the cover is blown, maybe he would have talked. Who knows?” Tigar seems to be implying that the government executed McVeigh to ensure his silence, a conclusion prosecutors dispute. Prosecutors say they have given the defense all exculpatory evidence, and that they can indisputably prove Nichols’s guilt. Assistant Oklahoma County District Attorney Sandra H. Elliott says, “Whether or not anybody else is involved, we can prove Mr. Nichols is.” Mark S. Hamm, a criminology professor who has written about the ARA, says: “The preponderance of evidence points to the fact that McVeigh had some sort of ongoing relationship with members of the ARA. [But t]here’s no smoking gun here.” Stephen Jones, who represented McVeigh during his trial (see May 8, 1995), says: “Where the Nichols defense clearly wants to go is to try for an acquittal or hung jury using material the government withheld.” If successful, the Nichols lawyers will try to get Nichols’s federal conviction (see December 23, 1997) reversed. However, “it has to succeed in [these proceedings] first.” [New York Times, 3/16/2004]
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