Oklahoma State Press Association to fight subpoenas seeking coverage on bombing

Friday, December 17th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma Press Association plans to fight subpoenas that have been served on at least a dozen daily newspapers in the state seeking every item the papers have runabout the Oklahoma City bombing. Defense attorneys for Terry Nichols, who faces state murder charges in the April 19, 1995, bombing, are asking the papers for every article, photo, diagram, cartoon, letter to the editor, advertisement and any other dialogue involving Nichols, Timothy McVeigh, Michael Fortier and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Bureau bombing since April 1995.

Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the OPA, said today the OPA will move to quash the subpoenas, which seek the material by Feb. 1. "We think it's burdensome and there are other places to get that information. They should seek those other options," Thomas said. He said the Nichols defense team could go to the Oklahoma Historical Society and read the back issues of the state papers and make copies of the material they seek.

Thomas said he had heard from about 15 newspapers who have been served with the subpoenas. Those include the Shawnee News-Star, The Edmond Sun, Weatherford Daily News, Hugo Daily News, Pryor Daily Times and Okmulgee Daily News. Joe Worley, executive editor of the Tulsa World, said his paper also had been served with the subpoena. "To my knowledge, only daily newspapers have received these subpoenas so far," Thomas said. "I have not heard from any weekly newspapers."

McVeigh was convicted of the 1995 bombing and has been sentenced to death. Nichols was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter and is serving a life sentence. Fortier pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, trafficking in guns the government says were stolen to finance the bombing and hiding evidence. The bombing killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others. District Attorney Bob Macy filed 160 counts of first-degree murder against Nichols earlier this year.

Attempts to reach defense attorney Brian Hermanson were not immediately successful. A taped recording message at his Ponca City office asked callers to leave a message. Thomas said defense attorneys were mistaken if they believed the newspapers could simply sit down and push a couple of computer keys to get all the items they seek. "What the newspapers would have to do is have an employee sit down and read five years' worth of papers" and copy every thing regarding the bombing and Nichols, McVeigh and Fortier.

"Terry Nichols' defense team is getting a million bucks to defend him. Why don't they go down to the Historical Society ... go down there and research and buy those copies rather than putting it off on a private business to use our employees and our time to help them make their case," Thomas said. "There are other alternatives to getting this information other than newspapers having to do" the work. "The newspapers should not be forced to provide information for the Nichols defense. It's too burdensome when there are other possibilities."

Worley said he sent the subpoena over to the newspaper's attorney. He said the paper's response is that the request is overly broad. He said the material is available for free by looking at back issues of the paper. "Most of it is on our Web site," he said.