Jury out on McVeigh helper

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The Independent US

The final fate of Terry Nichols, the Oklahoma City bomb co-conspirator serving life in federal prison, will rest with a small-town Oklahoma jury today after a two-month trial in which some of the defence's most powerful evidence of a broader bombing plot was withheld by the judge.

The final fate of Terry Nichols, the Oklahoma City bomb co-conspirator serving life in federal prison, will rest with a small-town Oklahoma jury today after a two-month trial in which some of the defence's most powerful evidence of a broader bombing plot was withheld by the judge.

The jury will be asked to determine whether Nichols is guilty of 161 counts of first-degree murder and therefore eligible for the death penalty. The charges are unusual given that he was, by universal agreement, 200 miles from the scene when the bomb exploded at the Oklahoma City federal building on 19 April 1995.

The prosecution says the gravity of the crime cries out for the ultimate punishment, hence the decision to reopen the case in state court seven years after the federal trials. Nichols is the only person to have been prosecuted for direct involvement in the bombing aside from Timothy McVeigh, the principal perpetrator who was executed in 2001. Nichols' defence team had hoped to show the official investigation into the bombing was flawed, that numerous significant documents were withheld from the original trial and that new evidence demonstrates the likely involvement of many people more deeply implicated than Nichols.

But Judge Steven Taylor repeatedly ruled against the defence and prevented them from presenting two witnesses - McVeigh's cellmate on death row, and the ringleader of a neo-Nazi bank robbery gang at the heart of the defence's alternative theory of the bombing.

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