Terry Nichols proceedings delayed after defense complains of not being paid

Tuesday, August 6th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A judge stopped short of setting a preliminary hearing in the death penalty trial of Terry Nichols after the attorney for the Oklahoma City bombing conspirator complained Tuesday of not being paid.

Brian Hermanson said he has not paid his office rent for four months and received a notice Monday that his electricity would be shut off. The Ponca City attorney also said his unpaid staff has deserted him and that he has had to wait on buying birthday and Christmas presents for his children.

In all, Hermanson said, Oklahoma County owes him for 11 months of work on the Nichols case.

``I feel it's punishment for the defense for aggressively representing this client,'' Hermanson told District Judge Ray Linder in a hearing at the Oklahoma County jail where Nichols has been held more than two years.

Hermanson said he has only recently begun to accept other cases.

Linder told Hermanson to take up the matter with the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the county court fund. Justices voided a contract last month after Hermanson said he had almost used up his funds. The court's ruling cleared the way for Hermanson to negotiate a new contract.

``It seems to me you almost have to seek a writ in the Supreme Court,'' Linder said. ``Now it's up to them to enforce their ruling, and not me.''

Hermanson said he had sent a proposal to the county court fund and had not received a reply.

Linder set a hearing for Aug. 23 when he will either set a preliminary hearing for Nichols or consider Hermanson's motion to withdraw from the case.

Nichols' defense has already cost $1.7 million. Hermanson said Tuesday that is still not much considering other trial expenses. He said, for example, that officials want to spend $1.9 million on closed-circuit cameras to broadcast the court proceedings.

Assistant District Attorney Sandra Elliott complained about the case's delay and showed signs of frustration during the hearing.

``We've had victims waiting for justice for seven years,'' Elliott said.

Nichols, wearing a pinstriped shirt and navy jacket, did not speak during the hearing. The former government surplus dealer is charged with 160 counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of civilians in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. He is already serving a federal life sentence for conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of eight federal agents in the explosion.

Co-defendant Timothy McVeigh, an Army buddy of Nichols', was executed last year.