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S P E C I A L The Terry Nichols Trial

Nichols an unknown to potential jurors


In this story:

September 30, 1997
Web posted at: 7:35 p.m. EDT (2335 GMT)

DENVER (CNN) -- Potential jurors claimed to know little about Terry Nichols -- the second man to stand trial in the Oklahoma City bombing -- or the case against him.

As jury selection continued Tuesday for a second day, one woman said she "really hasn't heard hardly anything about Mr. Nichols."

Another, a computer specialist, concluded in a jury questionnaire earlier this month that Nichols "must be guilty since (Timothy) McVeigh has been found guilty."

But under questioning from Judge Richard Matsch, prosecutors and defense attorneys, the woman said "I'm modifying that now because I haven't heard the proof."

Prosecutors say Nichols, 42, was a supporting player in the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil. They say he acquired fertilizer and other components of the bomb, robbed a firearms dealer to finance the attack and helped McVeigh build the bomb that killed 168 people and wounded hundreds of others on April 19, 1995.

Nichols could get the death penalty if convicted of murder and conspiracy. McVeigh was sentenced to death earlier this year.

Questioning personal and painful

By midday, eight potential jurors had undergone questioning, some of it personal and painful. One woman was asked about her alcoholic son, and another who was shot and killed by a policeman.

A police report said officers fired after the son pulled out a gun, a finding she said was false.

"Does this incident cause you to have such a distrust of police it would affect your ability to serve as a juror?" Matsch said.

jury box

"Absolutely not," she responded.

Another woman said she would have to turn to her parents for financial help if she is picked for the jury. A third talked about holding down four jobs at once to support her family.

One of the most important questions is whether prospective jurors are willing to give Nichols the death penalty if he is convicted of the bombing.

Defense attorney Ron Woods says the question puts the defense team at a disadvantage.

"Well, what's a juror to think?" he says. "They're going to sit there and feel 'I guess this issue of guilt's already been decided. We're just here to talk about punishment.' So it takes a lot to get that out of the jurors' mind and focus back on guilt or innocence."

'It's like playing human chess'

The defense and the prosecution have jury consultants helping them decide which jurors to select.

Referring to the examination process in which a jury is selected, Woods said, "Capital voir dire is one of the most interesting challenges that a lawyer ever faces. It's like playing human chess."

In this chess game, however, Terry Nichols' life is at stake.

Correspondent Tony Clark contributed to this report.

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