State Supreme Court asked to settle haircut issue

Tuesday, May 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma County sheriff wants the state Supreme Court to decide who should cut the hair of bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.

Sheriff John Whetsel asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a judge's order allowing Nichols to get his hair cut by his lead attorney's wife. Whetsel contends the judge "exceeds his authority" and is interfering with the operation of the jail.

"All other 2,300 inmates housed in the Oklahoma County Detention Center will seek the same treatment," prosecutors wrote for the sheriff. "Other inmates will ... request haircuts by the spouses, relatives or acquaintances of their attorneys. ... The internal safety and control of the Detention Center will be compromised."

A hearing is set Tuesday before a court referee.

Nichols has not had his hair cut since he was brought to Oklahoma City on Jan. 31. He faces a state murder trial for his part in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Under the sheriff's policy, an inmate can pay a licensed barber to come to the jail for a trim or let another inmate use electric clippers.

Nichols' attorneys don't want to hire a licensed barber for a scissors cut for safety reasons. And they think Nichols would end up with a bad-looking "buzz cut" from electric clippers.

Lead attorney Brian Hermanson suggested his wife could cut Nichols' hair. He said she is not licensed, but has experience cutting Hermanson's hair and their children's.

Last week, Payne County Associate District Judge Robert M. Murphy Jr. agreed Nichols could use Hermanson's wife or hire a licensed barber at state expense.

"The defendant is a pretrial detainee and the law presumes him innocent and this includes the right for him to have the appearance of innocence," said Murphy, who was specially appointed to the case.

Nichols was tried in federal court and given a life sentence for the bombing conspiracy. He is appealing his federal conviction on the grounds his attorneys did not get copies of all the FBI leads.

Federal prosecutors on Monday asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to reject his complaints. They said they gav edefense attorneys thousands of FBI reports.