Terry Nichols' attorneys seek more funds

Monday, December 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Defense attorneys for Terry Nichols argued Monday a vague contract has left them short of funds to defend the convicted bombing conspirator in his state murder trial.

They asked a referee to recommend that the Supreme Court change the contract so that it gives them an additional $1.8 million _ the same amount given for the last two years.

They also asked permission to withdraw from the case if their request is denied.

A state attorney countered that the contract is not vague and that Nichols' defense team should instead ask the case's presiding judge to grant more money. A judge ruled in June against any more defense funds.

Neal Leader, the state's attorney, argued Oklahoma has fulfilled its obligation to provide ``not a Cadillac defense, but a Ford or Chevy defense'' to Nichols.

Referee Wayne Snow, who gave each side 20 minutes to argue, will make a recommendation later to the full court.

Nichols, 46, was not present at the proceeding. He faces 160 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The blast killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

Nichols is serving a life sentence after a federal jury in Denver convicted him of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter. Nichols' Army buddy, Timothy McVeigh, 33, was executed by injection on June 11 after he was convicted at a Denver trial.

Donald Bogan, representing Nichols defense attorney Brian Hermanson, said the county public defender's office did not anticipate Nichols' state trial would last past 2001. The arrangement does not explain how defense attorneys will be paid after January, Bogan said.

``The contract is ambiguous,'' he said.

Bogan also said the contract states that other agreements must be undertaken to pay for additional staff members.

Leader said the contract funds Nichols' defense at nine times the amount received by any other capital case represented by the public defender.

He disagreed with allegations that a 2002 trial wasn't anticipated, saying the contract calls for legal representation through trial and sentencing.

``Some lawyers take cases they don't make any money on. We all know that,'' Leader said.

District Judge Ray Dean Linder has postponed a preliminary hearing for Nichols until after the Supreme Court has ruled on the funding request.

Nichols, a former government surplus dealer, told the judge at an October hearing that the funding dispute was hurting his chances for a fair trial.

``Without proper funding, you may as well go ahead and hang me right now because that is exactly what is occurring in this courtroom,'' Nichols said.