Defense Attorneys Say Millions Needed For Terry Nichols Defense

Tuesday, July 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Defense attorneys say there will be no Oklahoma City bombing trial in Oklahoma if there isn't enough money for Terry Nichols defense. The response came from attorneys after Governor Frank Keating signed a bill Wednesday taking $1.2 million dollars earmarked for the Terry Nichols trial and giving it to tornado victims.

Some bombing victims agree the millions of dollars set aside for bombing conspirator Terry Nichols state trial should be used to help tornado victims instead. "I don't think having the expense of a trial or the emotion of a trial is worth the difference in him getting the death penalty and having him spend the rest of life in jail," says bombing survivor Dennis Purifoy. But survivors of the disaster disagree on whether Nichols should even be tried in Oklahoma. "If Terry Nichols walks out of that prison because he wins one of those appeals, gets on an airplane and flies to the Philippines, I'd be one unhappy survivor," says Dr. Paul Heath.

Governor Keating, who put the final stamp on the plan to cut the trial money, was angry about the decision he had to make. "I resent the fact that I got put in this mess. The fact is, both of these things should be funded," said Keating. The Governor wants lawmakers to replenish the Nichols trial fund during next week's special session or in next year's budget. Heath says this dilemma can't wait until next year. The money is needed now.

The Oklahoma's public defender's office says without a proper defense, the trial would be worthless. "If we are going to have a trial, there has to be a defense. You can't have prosecution without defense. It would be a shame to fund it a little bit because it won't stand on appeal," says James Bednar, executive director of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.

Prosecutors say Nichols will be tried in Oklahoma and lawmakers will just have to find a way to fund it. Defense attorneys say they need five times the money lawmakers just took away from them to properly defend Nichols.