Second Oklahoma bomb defendant guilty of conspiracy and manslaughter

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The Independent Online
Terry Nichols was convicted yesterday of conspiring to blow up the Alfred Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, and faces the death penalty at the sentencing hearing which begins on Monday. Nichols, 42, was an old army friend of Timothy McVeigh, who has already been sentenced to death for the bombing.

The trial which, like that of McVeigh was held in Denver, had lasted for six weeks and heard more than 200 witnesses. The verdict came late yesterday after six days of deliberation.

The explosion, on 19 April 1995, killed 168 people, including children at a creche in the building, and was the largest single act of domestic terrorism experienced by the United States. The motive was said to be the bombers' anger over the violent end to the armed siege at Waco, Texas, a year before.

While the death penalty was almost a foregone conclusion in McVeigh's case, in the case of Terry Nichols it is more problematic. Although Nichols was found guilty on the main count - conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction - and is liable to be sentenced to death for that alone, the jury appeared to draw a clear distinction between McVeigh's direct involvement - as the man who transported the bomb to the building in a rental van - and Nichols' role as accomplice.

They found him not guilty on the majority of charges against him. These included multiple charges of first-degree murder (the jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in each case) and the specific charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and destruction of the federal building by explosive device. Nichols' defence lawyers produced alibis to show that he was in Kansas, several hundred miles away from Oklahoma City, at the time of the bombing.

The atmosphere surrounding the trial was quieter and less vengeful than the nationwide hue and cry that accompanied the trial of McVeigh. The case also produced more complex reactions in those who followed it.

While McVeigh's sister had testified for the prosecution, Nichols' wife testified in her husband's defence, presenting him as a family man who had bought explosives because he used them legitimately in his salvage business.