Judge to set Nichols preliminary hearing date

Monday, April 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A judge Monday set a May 21 preliminary hearing date to determine whether Terry Nichols should be bound over for trial on state murder charges for the Oklahoma City bombing.

State District Judge Ray Dean Linder said he wants to conclude the hearing no later than June 15.

Linder set the date after Nichols' defense attorney Brian Hermanson said it would be difficult for him to be ready by May 7, which had been suggested at an earlier hearing as the date for a preliminary hearing.

Hermanson also said it would be inappropriate to begin at another suggested date, May 17, because it would be the day after the scheduled execution of Nichols' Oklahoma City bombing co-defendant Timothy McVeigh.

``We're talking about a delay of at most two weeks,'' Hermanson said. ``The two weeks mean a significant amount to us.''

Hermanson also said he has filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals that asks the court to overrule Linder's refusal to dismiss 160 counts of murder against Nichols.

Linder last month denied Nichols' motion to dismiss the charges. Nichols claimed he should not be tried on state bombing charges because he's already been convicted and sentenced on federal bombing charges.

Linder previously denied a motion by Nichols to stay the case until the appellate court can review his ruling.

The preliminary hearing date will be Nichols' third since he was brought to Oklahoma on Jan. 31, 2000, from a federal prison in Colorado, where he was serving a life sentence on federal bombing convictions.

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.

Nichols, 46, is charged with 160 counts of first-degree murder in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which resulted in 168 deaths.

A federal jury convicted Nichols of eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and of conspiracy. Oklahoma prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.