Closing arguments under way in Nichols trial
December 15, 1997
Web posted at: 12:08 p.m. EST (1708 GMT)
From Correspondent Tony Clark
DENVER (CNN) -- Terry Nichols "intentionally and knowingly"
joined convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh in the plot to blow
up the Oklahoma City federal building "and kill the people
inside it," prosecutor Beth Wilkinson told jurors Monday as
closing arguments got under way in the second Oklahoma City
"This was no mistake, no coincidence," Wilkinson told the
jury of seven women and five men.
"It was not a toss of a coin -- heads, Terry Nichols is in;
tails, Terry Nichols is out ... (They were) choices Terry
Nichols made intentionally and knowingly," she said.
The court proceedings started a few minutes behind schedule
after more members of Nichols' family showed up in court for the
closing arguments, which are expected to effectively focus on
circumstantial evidence vs. reasonable doubt.
As a general strategy, the prosecution was expected to
outline Nichols' friendship with McVeigh, showing the
pre-paid phone cards they shared and the phone records that
link them together at key times in the government's
Wilkinson also will describe guns, blasting caps, plastic
barrels, a fertilizer receipt and other items found in
Nichols' home that appear to tie him to the robbery of a
quarry and an Arkansas gun collector -- robberies the
prosecution alleges helped pay for construction of the bomb
that ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on
April 19, 1995.
Nichols is charged with murder and conspiracy in connection
with that attack, which killed 168 people. He faces a
possible death sentence if convicted. McVeigh has already
been convicted and sentenced to death.
Despite the circumstantial evidence arrayed against Nichols,
the defense team also has a number of cards to play for the
jury. First and foremost is that Nichols was not in Oklahoma
City on that fateful morning.
Defense attorney Michael Tigar, who speaks French and quotes
everything from the law to Sherlock Holmes to Shakespeare,
will use his down-home, country lawyer style on the jury.
He'll point out that not a single government witness
testified that they heard Nichols say he wanted to blow up
anything. He'll depict Nichols as a family man, while
describing key government witness Michael Fortier as a liar
and drug user.
Tigar will raise the possibility that McVeigh used people
other than Nichols to build the bomb. He'll also point to
sightings of Ryder trucks, similar to the one used in the
blast, that were at the wrong place at the wrong time to fit
the prosecution's theory of what happened.
For Tigar, the key is to plant in the jury's mind reasonable
doubts about the government's case.
After Wilkinson and Tigar argue, the last word will come from
lead prosecutor Larry Mackey. In a soft, fatherly voice, he
will describe the human toll of the bombing and then ask
jurors to remain focused on one thing -- not McVeigh or Ryder
trucks or John Doe No. 2 but on the evidence against Nichols.
Closing arguments will likely take all day Monday. The jury
would then get its instructions on the law Tuesday morning
and, a short time later, begin deliberating Nichols' fate.
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