WITNESS list for Nichols' state trial expanded

Saturday, September 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Prosecutors are expanding the list of witnesses for the state murder trial against Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.

The trial will feature witnesses who were banned from testifying or not used at his federal trial, including a former U.S. Senate aide who recalls Nichols complained about the federal government just two days before the bombing.

Lee Alexander was an assistant to then-U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas. Alexander, who worked in Kassebaum's Topeka office, will testify that Nichols called to complain about how the federal government dealt with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

Fertilizer salesman Stuart Vogts, who works at the Mid-Kansas Co-op in Galva, Kan., also will testify for the prosecution.

Vogts recalls that Nichols tried to buy fertilizer from him in 1994, but wanted more than the co-op had. The bomb was made of fertilizer and racing fuel.

Nichols, 46, was convicted of federal involuntary manslaughter charges and sentenced to life in prison for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 and injured more than 500 others.

In gathering a new list of witnesses, prosecutors seek to strengthen their case in the hopes that Nichols will be convicted of murder, allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane announced Wednesday that he will pursue state bombing charges against Nichols. Lane had been reevaluating the case since he was appointed district attorney following the June retirement of former District Attorney Bob Macy, who filed the charges in March 1999.

Nichols was transferred to Oklahoma City from a federal prison in Colorado in January 2000 to face the state charges. But legal issues have caused Nichols' preliminary hearing to be postponed four times and have prevented a trial from being scheduled.

Lane said Wednesday he can prosecute Nichols with his existing budget and that no tax revenues will be used to pay Nichols' defense costs, which already total about $1.6 million.

Nichols' defense costs are being paid from a court fund financed primarily by fines and court costs.

The next hearing in Nichols' case is scheduled Oct. 9, when the judge over the preliminary hearing will meet with prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss the exchange of evidence.