JUDGE postpones Nichols preliminary hearing


Tuesday, May 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A judge has postponed the start of Terry Nichols' preliminary hearing on state bombing charges as prosecutors and defense attorneys wait to take a look at thousands of previously undisclosed FBI bombing documents.

State District Judge Ray Dean Linder on Monday canceled the May 21 start date for Nichols' preliminary hearing. No new start date was set.

The FBI revealed last week that it had failed to give 3,135 pages of documents to prosecutors and defense attorneys before the federal trials of Nichols and convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The preliminary hearing is to determine whether Nichols should be bound over for a state trial on 160 counts of first-degree murder for the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 500.

He was given a life sentence following conviction on eight counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of federal law enforcement officers.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for Nichols, 46, in his state case.

Criminal court procedures require that prosecutors disclose to defense attorneys any materials they plan to use at a preliminary hearing within five days before the start of the hearing.

State prosecutors have not been able to comply because they have not received the materials.

``We're not delaying it for delay's sake,'' Linder said. ``I don't believe any materials had been exchanged.''

Prosecutors expect the preliminary hearing to last about three weeks. Linder said he will try to reset it at the earliest possible date.

The postponement is the third time Nichols' preliminary hearing date has been delayed since he was brought to Oklahoma on Jan. 31, 2000, from a federal prison in Colorado.

The original Aug. 7 date was abandoned after prosecutors moved to disqualify the original preliminary hearing judge, Payne County Associate District Judge Robert M. Murphy Jr.

Linder set aside the second date, Oct. 9, after defense attorneys moved to disqualify Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy. Macy was removed from the case for violating a gag order and being too close to victims.