U.S. Will Seek Death Penalty in Oklahoma City Bomb Blast

From a Times Staff Writer

The Justice Department has decided to seek the death penalty for accused Oklahoma City bombers Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols, accused in the worst case of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, sources said Thursday night.

McVeigh's lawyer, Stephen Jones, confirmed that he had been notified of the decision by the office of Patrick Ryan, U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City. Attorneys for Nichols could not be reached. Justice Department officials declined comment.

"It's hardly a surprise since the President and attorney general announced even before the arrest of any defendant that they would seek the death penalty," said Jones.

Jones has motions pending challenging Atty. Gen. Janet Reno's role in the decision, because of the statements she and President Clinton made hours after the bombing.

But Reno has said that she would make the decision on whether to seek capital punishment, regardless of Jones' objections.

Lawyers for the two men have 30 days to challenge the government's decision to press for the ultimate penalty. Word of the Justice Department's decision came exactly six months after the April 19 blast that killed 169 people and injured more than 600.

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