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Oklahoma City’s New D.A. to Try Nichols

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From Associated Press

Ending months of speculation over whether he would drop the case, the new district attorney in Oklahoma City said Wednesday that he will prosecute bombing conspirator Terry L. Nichols on state murder charges that could bring the death penalty.

Dist. Atty. Wes Lane said he will pursue the 160 first-degree murder counts brought by his predecessor two years ago.

“Accountability with the laws of Oklahoma demand that we stay the course,” Lane said at the site of the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people.

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Nichols, 46, was convicted in federal court of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter and is serving a life sentence. But he has appealed, and Lane said he wants to make sure Nichols does not escape punishment.

“I simply do not know what might loom out there on the legal horizon which would place Terry Nichols’ federal conviction in jeopardy,” he said. “The interests of the people of the state of Oklahoma cannot be vindicated by the blind reliance upon the federal government or Terry Lynn Nichols.”

The state murder charges were filed in 1999 by Dist. Atty. Bob Macy, who was removed from the case last year after explaining to the media how he wanted to put Nichols to death.

Lane took over when Macy retired in June. He had considered dropping the charges, citing the expense and the effects of another wrenching trial on bombing survivors and members of victims’ families.

“I have considered this at great length and frankly this perhaps above everything has been my greatest concern,” said Lane, who met privately with survivors of the bombing and victims’ relatives in July.

“I truly wish that I believed in my heart of hearts that I have another course of action available to me at this time.”

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Some victims said Nichols should be tried for the deaths of the 160 victims, including 19 children, who were not part of his federal trial. Others said a second trial was unnecessary.

Kathleen Treanor, who lost her 4-year-old daughter and her husband’s parents in the bombing, said she wanted to shout “Yes!” when she heard about Lane’s decision.

“Even if there had only been one of us that wanted this to go forward, it should have gone forward,” she said. “It’s too important to let go.”

Paul Howell, whose daughter, Karan, died in the bombing, said he doesn’t care about a state trial. “I just wanted them to hurry up and do it or let us get on with our healing.”

Jim Denny, whose two children were severely injured in the blast, said he believes Nichols cannot receive a fair trial in Oklahoma.

“I can’t really see a presumption of innocence,” Denny said. “I believe we should end it and we should end it now. I do not want to spend one penny of tax dollars on this case.”

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In a letter to the Tulsa World, Nichols’ attorney, Brian Hermanson, said that Nichols was willing to end his appeals and accept his federal sentence in order to avoid the state trial.

The district attorney said a court order prevented him from commenting on the offer.

“I know there will be good lawyers who will disagree with me on this,” Lane said of his decision. “If they are wrong, they will never have to face the victim’s family and survivors--but I will.”

Hermanson said he would have no comment on Lane’s statement.

Nichols worked with his former Army buddy Timothy J. McVeigh to get bomb ingredients and pack the bomb inside a truck the day before the April 19, 1995, blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The attack was the deadliest act of terrorism committed on U.S. soil.

Nichols was convicted in the deaths of eight federal agents. McVeigh was convicted of murder and was executed June 11 in Terre Haute, Ind.

Questions were raised about the convictions when the FBI admitted in May that it had not turned over thousands of pages of bombing documents to defense attorneys before trial.

Prosecutors say the materials do not affect the convictions. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Nichols’ appeal that suggested the FBI deliberately withheld information.

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