State Supreme Court voids Terry Nichols' defense contract

Tuesday, July 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Supreme Court acted Tuesday to resolve a dispute over attorney fees that has delayed state prosecution of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.

The court voided a government contract for payment of Nichols' defense attorneys. The attorneys had argued that the contract was vague and left them short of funds to defend Nichols.

The dispute over legal fees has delayed proceedings in the case for about a year. It was not immediately clear following the ruling when those proceedings would resume.

The Supreme Court held that expenditures on Nichols defense the last two years were reasonable under case law and said the ``same standards should be utilized in the computation of any future fees.''

The court said the contract, which placed a $1.8 million ceiling on defense fees, lacks statutory or constitutional authority and declared it void.

Brian Hermanson, Nichols' attorney, declined comment, citing a gag order by Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Linder, who had previously ruled against giving Hermanson additional funds.

A state attorney had defended the contract before the Supreme Court, saying Oklahoma had fulfilled its obligation to provide ``not a Cadillac defense, but a Ford or Chevy defense'' to Nichols.

Nichols, 46, 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 convicted him of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter.