OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A state trial of Terry Nichols in the
Oklahoma City bombing was assured Tuesday when a judge ruled the
state Judicial Fund could be used to pay for Nichols' defense.
Associate District Judge Robert M. Murphy Jr. opted to hire
private attorneys to defend Nichols, to be paid for out of the
state fund, after allowing the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System to
withdraw from the case.
Jim Bednar, OIDS executive director, said the decision assures
money will be available for Nichols' defense.
"The last thing in the world we want to look like in
Oklahoma," Bednar said, are rednecks who "want to kill Terry
Nichols and not pay for his defense."
Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy said he was pleased a
source to pay for Nichols' defense had been determined.
He predicted it would be a year before Nichols could be brought
to trial in Oklahoma.
Macy has charged Nichols with 160 counts of first-degree murder
for the deaths from the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P.
Murrah Federal Building.
Brian Hermanson of Ponca City had been appointed by OIDS to
represent Nichols, but the contract was canceled after the
Legislature withdrew $900,000 to help tornado victims.
Murphy said he would consult with Bob Ravitz, Oklahoma County's
public defender, and district judges on possible defense counsel
for Nichols. "It may be Mr. Hermanson, it may be someone else,"
the judge said.
Ravitz testified his office could not represent Nichols since
several employees were injured in the bombing.
On Monday, Howard Conyers, administrator of the state court
system, testified that Oklahoma County was in position to capture
up to $2.7 million from the state court fund to pay for Nichols
defense. The money represents "excess" court fees expected to be
received during the year.
Nichols wrote Murphy July 16 that he wanted Hermanson to
continue as his attorney.
Nichols is serving a federal life sentence for conspiracy and
eight counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of eight
federal law enforcement officers killed in the bombing.
Murphy dismissed OIDS from the case after Macy stipulated that
he had no objections.
The judge then recessed the hearing so that officials could tour
the Oklahoma County Jail to decide if a new courtroom there could
be used to hold the preliminary hearing for Nichols.
The Legislature appropriated $1 million to OIDS in 1998 to
defray defense costs, which officials said could rise to $5
Macy thinks Nichols can be adequately defended at a much lower
cost. At Tuesday's hearing, he suggested that costs could be
reduced by hiring an attorney from Oklahoma County.
In his letter, Nichols told Murphy he doesn't think he can get a
fair trial in Oklahoma. He said his immediate concern was attempts
to curtail funding for his defense and deprive him of "a properly
qualified and experienced attorney."
Nichols, who is in federal prison in Colorado, said replacing
Hermanson would "seriously jeopardize my defense and would
therefore create a prime cause for any conviction to be overturned
(Copyright 1999 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)