Terry L. Nichols was sentenced today to life without parole in the deaths of 161 people when a federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed in 1995.
District Judge Steven Taylor in McAlester, Okla., ordered Nichols to serve a life term on each of the 161 counts of murder and that the sentences run consecutively, Associated Press reported.
“My heart truly goes out to all the victims and survivors and to everyone who was affected by the Oklahoma City bombing,” Nichols said in his first statement to the court, according to AP. “Words cannot adequately express the sorrow I have felt over the years for the grief they have all suffered.”
Nichols, 49, was already sentenced to life without parole in 1998 on federal bombing charges; the sentence today was on state charges.
The jury’s choices were the death penalty, life in prison or life in prison without possibility of parole, but jurors said they were unable to reach unanimous agreement. That spared the life of Nichols, who also escaped the death sentence during a federal trial seven years ago.
He was convicted of other charges as well as 161 counts of first-degree murder, including one count for the death of a fetus. Nichols received 10 years and a $5,000 fine for a conspiracy count; 35 years and a $25,000 fine for first-degree arson and was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution and $10,000 per count to a victims compensation fund, as well as legal fees.
Nichols did not testify, but today he issued a statement, praying “for everyone to acknowledge God,” and to make God first in their life, AP reported.
“Your criminal acts in this case are historic in proportion,” Taylor said, according to AP. “No American citizen has ever brought this kind of devastation, you are in U.S. history the No. 1 mass murderer in all of U.S. history. What could motivate you to do this? There are no answers.”
Prosecutors said Nichols and Timothy J. McVeigh, onetime Army friends who shared a hatred of the federal government, orchestrated the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children and eight law enforcement officers, was meant to avenge the government’s 1993 raid on a religious compound near Waco, Texas, that left scores of people dead, officials said.
McVeigh was executed in 2001. Nichols is serving a life prison term, without possibility of parole, on his federal court conviction in the deaths of the officers.
Aug. 9, 2004
Mary MacVean and Scott Gold, Times Staff Writers