Judge Allows Consideration of Death Penalty for Terry Nichols

The Judge in the OKC bombing trial of Terry Nichols ruled today that the jury may consider the death penalty as to the 160 non-federal employees killed in the bombing, but not as to the fetus that died with it's mother. Although in 2002 an Oklahoma appellate court upheld a law stating that fetuses are viable at 24 weeks and that their unnatural deaths can be charged as first-degree murder, the Court today found that the state did not give adequate notice to Nichols of its intent to seek the death penalty on the fetus.

Nichols was acquitted on first degree murder charges at his federal trial in 1997, but found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy to murder the 8 federal officers and given a life sentence. There is no parole in the federal system. In the state case, the jury will not be allowed to consider lesser charges. It's either first degree murder or innocent.

On Friday, Taylor ruled that Nichols' jury will not consider less serious charges when they decide Nichols' guilt or innocence in the bombing case. The ruling limited jurors to two possible verdicts: guilty of first-degree murder or innocent.

Nichols' lawyers have argued in the state trial that:

McVeigh had set up Nichols to take the blame for other, unidentified coconspirators heavily involved in the plot.

Closing arguments are scheduled for today.

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