Judge to decide Nichols pretrial motions

Thursday, June 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Bombing conspirator Terry Nichols is back in court to learn whether a judge will grant his motion to dismiss state murder charges for the Oklahoma City bombing.

The motion was one of several that Associate District Judge Robert M. Murphy Jr. was scheduled to decide Thursday during a day long hearing that will resolve several legal issues prior to Nichols' Aug. 7 preliminary hearing.

Before the start of the opening hearing, the judge convened a closed hearing at the request of Nichols' attorney Brian Hermanson. The subject of the closed hearing wasn't disclosed, but in the past closed hearings have involved grand jury testimony.

Murphy, of Stillwater, was appointed to decide whether Nichols should go to trial on 163 charges, including 160 counts of first-degree murder, for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Among other things, Hermanson has argued that the murder charges violate Nichols' constitutional guarantee against double jeopardy, or being tried twice for the same offense. Nichols, 45, also claims that the double jeopardy guarantee prohibits Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy from seeking the death penalty.

Nichols' motion argued it is unconstitutional to try him in Oklahoma because he has already been tried and convicted in federal court on bombing-related charges.

Macy claims he can prosecute Nichols because the federal and state judicial systems are separate. He said the state charges distinguish the case from Nichols' federal trial, where he was accused of the deaths of eight federal agents killed in the bombing.

The blast resulted in 168 deaths. The 160 state murder counts do not include the eight federal officers. Defense attorneys also claim that publicity about the bombingand Nichols' federal conviction make it impossible for him toreceive a fair trial in Oklahoma.

"Given the volume and nature of the publicity generated by this case, Terry Nichols will not be presumed innocent by Oklahoma jurors," the motion says.

Prosecutors said the motion is premature because Nichols has not been ordered to stand trial.

Nichols was found guilty of eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction following a federal trial in Denver. He was brought to Oklahoma City on Jan. 31 from Colorado, where he was serving a life prison sentence.

Nichols was found innocent of use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosive and eight counts of first-and second-degree murder.

Nichols' co-defendant, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted on federal murder charges and sentenced to death. State charges have not been filed against McVeigh.

Prosecutors have urged Murphy to dismiss other defense motions alleging that Nichols cannot be tried on certain state charges for lack of jurisdiction and because the time limit for prosecution has expired.

In addition to the murder charges, Nichols faces one count of first-degree manslaughter for the death of an unborn child whose mother was killed, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of aiding and counseling in the placing of a substance or bomb near a public building.