Potential juror critical of cost of Nichols' trial
October 16, 1997
Web posted at: 10:42 p.m. EDT (0242 GMT)
DENVER (CNN) -- An elementary school teacher being considered
Thursday as a juror in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of
Terry Nichols criticized the amount of money spent on the
case, saying it could have been better used helping children.
"When we spend millions of dollars on one court case for one
person ... it feels to me that's a lot of money. I see
families and children every day who could benefit from that
money," the potential juror told U.S. District Judge Richard
The judge was taken aback by the man's criticism, which was
aimed in part at the cost of bringing hundreds of potential
jurors to a local fairground to fill out questionnaires
before Nichols' trial began.
Potential jurors were paid $40 each for spending an afternoon
filling out the form.
"We don't use cost-benefit analysis in deciding what's
necessary for a fair trial," Matsch responded, explaining
that the case required unusual steps to ensure a fair trial.
Justice Department officials have declined to disclose the
amount of money spent so far on the case against Nichols and
co-defendant Timothy McVeigh, but estimates have ranged well
into the millions of dollars.
More than 75 prospective jurors have been questioned since
Nichols' trial began September 29. The process is expected to
last at least two more weeks; under that time frame, opening
statements would begin the first week of November.
On Friday, attorneys will meet with Matsch to discuss which
of the potential jurors interviewed this week are qualified
to remain in the jury pool.
During the first two weeks, 26 people were selected for the
pool, from which 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen.
Under court rules, the pool must contain 64 potential jurors
before lawyers can whittle it down to the final 18.
On Thursday, three potential jurors said their religious
beliefs would prevent them from voting for the death penalty
-- statements that would likely disqualify them from the jury
pool, since federal law requires that jurors be open to the death
penalty as well as a life sentence.
One of the three said that, as a Christian, "I just
couldn't do it."
Earlier, the man said he wanted off jury duty because his
company would "go into the tank" if he had to sit through a
months-long trial. He denied he fashioned his response as a
way to be sent home.
The last person questioned Thursday, the 76th so far, said
she supported capital punishment but could consider all of
the information heard in court before deciding punishment.
The day began with continued questioning of one of the few
African-American women being interviewed.
In fairly short answers, she acknowledged she had seen
pictures of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building following
the April 19, 1995, blast that killed 168 people and injured
The woman said she had no strong opinions about the death penalty
and insisted she could be fair about deciding the punishment in
Nichols, 42, could get the death penalty if convicted of
murder and conspiracy in the bombing. McVeigh was convicted
of the same charges in June and was sentenced to die.