Lawyers in Nichols' trial get busy sending jurors home
Only 9 of 21 questioned remain in final pool
October 3, 1997
Web posted at: 10:21 p.m. EDT (0221 GMT)
DENVER (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for Oklahoma City bombing suspect Terry Nichols squared off in court Friday afternoon over how many of the 21 potential jurors questioned during this past week should remain in the jury pool.
And when the smoke cleared at the end of the first week of jury selection, just nine of those potential jurors remained -- about one-seventh of the number needed before the next phase of jury selection begins.
Asked if he considered the pace slow, lead defense lawyer Michael Tigar said, "We're learning something new every day."
Nichols, 42, is accused of conspiring with his Army buddy, Timothy McVeigh, to build and deploy the powerful truck bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people.
Nichols could get the death penalty if convicted. McVeigh has already been convicted and sentenced to death.
During the first four days of the trial, 21 potential jurors were called to the witness stand and asked about their views on the bombing, the defendant, the attorneys and, in particular, the death penalty.
Friday afternoon, lawyers argued over which of those people should be allowed to remain in the final pool, from which the jury that will actually hear the case will be chosen.
Those rejected included one woman who said she might get psychic messages and another who said a death sentence would haunt her.
Others excused included a beautician who said the trial would cause her stress, a programmer who got into a spat with the judge over whether computers could do a better job of deciding trials and a woman who said life in prison for some prisoners was a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Once that final pool has been selected, the defense and prosecution will each begin to use their preemptory strikes, which allow them to eliminate jurors without specific cause.
In this extremely high-profile case, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch has decided that at least 64 potential jurors are needed in the final pool before the next phase can begin. So if selection continues at the same pace it did during first week, it could be six more weeks before a final pool is even selected.
Five prospective jurors interviewed for the first time Friday were not included in those considered during the court arguments Friday afternoon.
A man who said he is a pacifist and served as a medic in the military said he could not vote for the death penalty. A young woman said when she told her parents that she had been summoned for the Nichols jury pool, they had different reactions.
"My father told me to get out of this any way I could," she said. "My mother told him to mind his own business."
T H E N I C H O L S T R I A L /
T H E M c V E I G H T R I A L
T H E B O M B I N G /
C N N S T O R I E S
/ L I N K S