KINGMAN – Ten Mohave County residents must appear next month in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of suspect Terry Nichols, Superior Court Judge Steven Conn ruled on Friday.
At a hearing in Kingman, Conn directed the prospective witnesses to answer defense subpoenas even though several objected because they would face medical and financial hardship if forced to make the trip to Oklahoma.
Nichols’ attorneys in the death-penalty trial are attempting to show that their client was a dupe or fall guy, and that lead conspirator Timothy McVeigh had other help in the 1995 terrorism attack that took 169 lives in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Defense lawyers subpoenaed 13 Kingman-area residents, most of whom did not know McVeigh or Nichols, and had only tangential links to the investigation. Three of the would-be witnesses could not be located, and four signed waivers agreeing to appear without an Arizona court hearing.
The remaining six, including 80-year-old Walter “Mac” McCarty, appeared before Conn on Friday. McCarty acknowledged that he gave handgun instructions to McVeigh, who was convicted in federal court and executed four years ago. He said the defense wants him to testify as a former Marine Corps drill instructor that McVeigh brainwashed Nichols.
Before Friday’s hearing, McCarty had said he believes that may be true. But he noted that he never met Nichols, and feels it would be treasonous to testify on his behalf.
In court Friday, McCarty said he has a metal plate in his head and is 100 percent disabled – suffering from depression, sleeplessness, motion sickness and other maladies. He said he does not want to leave his wife, who recently suffered a heart attack and gall bladder removal.
McCarty asked Conn if his refusal to testify in Oklahoma would result in a felony conviction that might terminate federal benefits. If not, he added, “I’m willing to spend some time in jail as punishment.”
Conn said ignoring the subpoena would probably result in a misdemeanor charge that carries up to six months in jail. He ordered McCarty to answer the subpoena.
Moments later, in the courthouse foyer, McCarty said, “I’m not going. I’ve gotta take my chances.”
Another elderly witness, Les Hart, also resisted. Hart purportedly knew Michael Fortier of Kingman, a McVeigh Army pal who became the government’s prime witness after pleading guilty to knowing about the planned bombing without taking action to prevent it.
Hart appeared in court with a tube running from his nose to an oxygen tank. He said he’s on a pacemaker, had open-heart surgery, has diabetes, is recovering from colon surgery, can’t walk very far and doesn’t trust himself to drive in a big city. Referring to Nichols, he added, “I never met the man before in my life. I don’t know who he is.”
Despite all that, Conn told Hart he must comply with the subpoena so long as Oklahoma authorities accommodate his health and transportation needs.
Others who must testify include two security company supervisors who once employed McVeigh, a Ryder Truck Rental employee and a friend of Fortier’s wife.