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OKC Bombing: 17 Years Ago Today

Today is the 17th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, in which 168 persons were killed and hundreds more injured. It was then, and remains today, the largest act of domestic terrorism in the history of the nation. The Government's investigation into the bombing was, until 9/11, the largest criminal investigation the Government had ever undertaken.

Timothy McVeigh was found guilty and executed in 2001. Terry Nichols was tried in both federal and state court and sentenced to life in prison, a sentence he is currently serving at Supermax in Florence, Colorado.

Speculation has never ceased about whether McVeigh and Nichols acted alone or were aided by others who either went undetected or were ignored during the Government's investigation.

Next week you can get greater insight with the release of Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed--and Why It Still Matters by investigative journalists Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles.[More...]

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Commercializing the Oklahoma City Bombing

Some of you undoubtedly are watching the McVeigh Tapes tonight on MSNBC. They will have a computer generated character, who in their view bears a physical resemblance to Timothy McVeigh, so you have something to look at as they play the audio of tapes made during interviews he granted to the two reporters who wrote the book, American Terrorist.

Since I was one of McVeigh's trial lawyers, I obviously have my own opinions about why he chose to speak to the reporters and what his objectives were -- and how much of what he told them was accurate.

The reason I doubt I'll like Maddow's show is the attempt to politicize it and tie McVeigh to current times and the anti-government feelings some are expressing. There is no connection. And it's long past time to put the conspiracy theories to rest. [More...]

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Fourteen Years Ago: A Look Back

April 19, 1995. It was the largest act of domestic terrorism in the history of the country. Until September 11, it was the largest act of mass murder in the United States. It left 168 people dead and more than 500 people injured.

It was a massive case (pdf) to defend. There were:

  • 30,000 interviews of witnesses taken by the FBI and other government agencies.
  • More than 200,000 photographs
  • Records of 156 million telephone calls and over one million hotel and motel registrations
  • Over 500 hours of audio tape and over 400 hours of video tape.
  • 25,000 pages of lab reports and worksheets
  • 23,000 pieces of evidence

It cost the Government $82 million to investigate and prosecute and $10 to $15 million to defend.[More...]

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10th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Verdict Against Timothy McVeigh

Ten years ago today, a Denver federal jury returned a death verdict against Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombing.

A few weeks ago I sat down with Colorado 850 KOA News Radio host Steffan Tubbs for an interview about what it was like to defend McVeigh. Tubbs also interviewed Houston lawyer Chris Tritico, another principal member of the trial team . The interview aired today as part of a five part series that looks back at the trial.

McVeigh was executed by lethal injection six years ago on June 11, 2001.

What is like to defend the most hated man in America? Would I do it again? You can listen here.

Other parts of the series which include interviews with the prosecutors, victims' families, members of the media and a juror are here.

[Cross-posted at 5280.com]

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A Bad Week in History: Waco, Oklahoma City and Columbine

Today is a bad day for history. It is the anniversary of the tragic deaths of the Branch Davidians at Waco in 1993.

It is also the 12th anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. (Disclosure: I was one of Timothy McVeigh's trial lawyers, so don't bother ranting about him in the comments, it will be deleted.)

Tomorrow, April 20, is the anniversary of the Columbine killings.

One of the lasting legal effects of the OKC bombing was President Bill Clinton's Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Enforcement Act (pdf), which restricted habeas corpus rights and added many new death penalty eligible offenses.

Like I said the other day about why we shouldn't rush to enact gun control laws in the aftermath of Virginia Tech, we should never enact laws as an emotional response to a single tragedy, no matter how horrific. Cooler heads are needed.

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House to Investigate Foreign Connection to OKC Bombing

As if we needed another wasteful Congressional investigation. California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the International Relations Committee, announced yesterday a House panel will investigate whether there was a foreign connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Can we move on, please? This has been investigated to death, by the prosecution and two separate defense teams. If the House wants to search for foreign terrorists, why not concentrate on Osama?

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Michael Fortier to Get New Identity on Release

Yesterday I wrote about Michael Fortier's impending release Friday from prison. He's done with his 12 year sentence--he served 10 1/2 years, 85%. Fortier pleaded guilty to knowing about plans to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 and not reporting it to authorities, as well as lesser offenses.

Tonight the Dallas Morning News reports that Fortier, his wife Lori (who received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony against McVeigh and Nichols) and their children will immediately be whisked off into the Witness Protection program, given new identities and moved to a new location.

This reaction by one of the survivors of the bombing is particularly insightful:

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Michael Fortier to Be Released From Prison

Michael Fortier, who pleaded guilty to knowing about plans to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 and not reporting the plans to authorities is set to be released from prison, having finished 85% of his 12 year sentence. Fortier testified against McVeigh and Nichols.

Fortier, who served in the Army with bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols....also pleaded guilty to helping McVeigh and Nichols move and sell stolen guns, and for lying to federal authorities after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Fortier could have been sentenced to 23 years but because of his cooperation against McVeigh and Nichols, was sentenced to only 12. His wife received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.

Fortier's plea agreement is here.

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Terry Nichols Meets With Congressman

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who supports efforts to reinvestigate the Oklahoma City Bombing, has been trying for weeks to meet with Terry Nichols at the AdMax prison in Florence, CO where Nichols is serving his life sentence. The meeting took place last week, and LA Weekly has this extensive account. Rohrabacher is pursuing theories that Timothy McVeigh had the help of middle-eastern men to carry off the bombing.

To me, as one of McVeigh's trial lawyers, the interesting part of the LA Weekly article is that Nichols' has finally admitted he robbed Roger Moore, the Arkansas gun dealer.

Terry Nichols' mother is giving interviews as well, and says Terry didn't know what McVeigh was going to do with the bomb he helped McVeigh build. She says Terry thought McVeigh was going to bomb a monument. The LA Weekly article says,

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Terry Nichols Refuses to Testify Before New Grand Jury

Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols refused to testify last week before a federal grand jury in Denver investigating explosives recently found under his old house. He said the grand jury is not the right forum.

Nichols, 50, has said he would cooperate with a congressional investigation. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is considering a probe into the bombing and is seeking to meet with Nichols in prison.

McDonnell said her brother does not feel safe at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo. "He feels his life is very threatened," she said. Other inmates "have told him he has been marked as a snitch and marked for murder, and so he's very fearful for his life."

She blamed FBI misconduct for the problem but would not elaborate. His life has been put in danger, and we don't appreciate it," she said. ....In late March, agents discovered explosives under Nichols' old house, acting on information that came indirectly from another inmate, mobster Gregory Scarpa Jr. Nichols later complained in letters to victims that Scarpa had mixed the truth about the explosives with lies in an effort to get a reduced prison sentence.

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Terry Nichols Accuses Third Man in OKC Bombing

Convicted OKC bomber Terry Nichols, who has maintained his silence for ten years, now is accusing Arkansa gun dealer Roger Moore of providing some of the explosives for the 1995 OKC bombing.

Nichols claims Arkansas gun collector Roger Moore gave the explosives to Timothy McVeigh and also provided additional bomb components recently found in Nichols' former Kansas home, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. In the early stages of the bombing investigation, the FBI took a hard look at Moore because of his anti-government views and close relationship with McVeigh. He was never charged.

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Terry Nichols Outlined His Role in OKC Bombing for Prosecutors

The Daily Oklahoman has obtained a copy of a statement Terry Nichols and his lawyers gave to prosecutors last year during plea negotioations that could have but didn't result in a deal to save his life, that outlines his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He said he knows of no other co-conspirators, did not know Michael Fortier was involved, and did not know what building McVeigh intended to bomb until he heard it on the news. Nichols went to trial and was sentenced to life by the jury.

Here's the text of the statement:

Were you present during the purchase of: ammonium nitrate, nitromethane, barrels and where was each purchased?

Ammonium nitrate: Yes, for the majority of the purchases. It is my understanding that McVeigh bought some additional bags of ammonium nitrate (approximately 12 or more) on his own. I was not involved in those purchases. The ones I was involved in were purchased from the McPherson, Kansas Coop. I do not know where McVeigh purchased the additional 12 or so bags.

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Terry Nichols Gets 161 Life Sentences

The Judge presiding over the Oklahoma state trial of Terry Nichols sentenced him today to 161 terms of life without parole, to be served consecutively. The jury had rejected the death penalty for him.

Nichols spoke at his sentencing, but if anyone was expecting he would answer lingering questions about involvement of others in the bombing, it was not to be. Nichols apologized and told everyone to believe in God.

Nichols' lawyers are encouraging him not to appeal. If he were to be retried, the death penalty could be on the table again. So, it looks like the OKC bombing cases finally have come to an end. That's good. The families of the victims have closure and can now move on.

My view: The state trial was an unnecessary waste of resources. Nichols was already serving life without parole on his federal conviction of conspiracy to kill the 8 federal workers who died in the blast. He will now return to the maximum security wing at Florence, Colorado to serve out the rest of his sentence. Gain to the state and people of Oklahoma by virtue of this trial: none.

Update: Here is the text of Terry Nichols' statement at sentencing today.

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Cost of Terry Nichols' Trial

The citizens of Oklahoma shelled out more than $5.2 million to try and kill Terry Nichols:

The final costs of Terry Nichols' state case will exceed $5.2
million. More than $3.75 million has already been paid on his defense since 1999, records show. Another $115,361 in defense bills for May is being processed. The defense costs includes the salaries of six court-appointed attorneys, their investigators and other staff. It also includes overhead, housing expenses, a jury consultant's fee, a public opinion survey and expert witness fees. The latest expenses in May include the cost of motel rooms for defense
witnesses.

The security costs for the trial and for Nichols' stay in McAlester were $288,355 through May, records show. Guards watched the Pittsburg County Courthouse around the clock. Nichols is held at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Jury costs so far exceed $67,400. Much of that was spent for jury selectionon the hundreds of candidates who were summoned for jury duty. Jurors are paid $20 a day plus mileage.

Update: The jurors speak.

Update: Teflon Terry Nichols

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Terry Nichols' Jurors Deadlocked: No Death Penalty

Update: Terry Nichols' jury is deadlocked and he will be spared the death penalty. Our congrats go to Nichols' outstanding defense team, which included NACDL Vice President, Barbara Bergman.

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Original post:

After 17 hours of deliberations, the Terry Nichols' jury told the judge they are divided on whether he should get the death penalty. They are continuing to deliberate, but the foreman said some jurors have some "deeply held beliefs." If there is no unanimity, Nichols' will get a life sentence.

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