Prosecution rests in Nichols trial

McALESTER — Prosecutors today completed their circumstantial case against Terry Nichols, putting on testimony from 151 witnesses and giving jurors more than 1,000 pieces of evidence about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“The state rests,” lead prosecutor Sandra Elliott announced at 11:50 a.m. The last witnesses today were doctors who told jurors about the fatal injuries of 30 more victims.

“My dad was the last name that was read today,” said Kevin Van Ess. “It was hard to listen to. … It was difficult but it could have been worse.

There were much worse injuries on some of the people.” Prosecutors took 29 days to put on their evidence at the state murder trial. The defense begins at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Defense attorneys plan to call from 150 to 210 witnesses over three weeks. They contend Nichols was set up to take the blame.

Prosecutors put on evidence seeking to prove Nichols helped executed bomber Timothy McVeigh gather ammonium nitrate fertilizer, racing fuel and plastic barrels to make the bomb, then helped mix the ingredients in the back of a rented Ryder truck. They alleged he also helped McVeigh steal blasting caps from a Kansas rock quarry. They contend Nichols alone robbed a gun collector in Arkansas to finance the plot.

Nichols was in Herington, Kan., when the bomb exploded at 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995.

The key prosecution witness, Michael Fortier, told jurors McVeigh described what Nichols had done to further their plot.

Fortier testified McVeigh talked in the weeks before the attack how Nichols wanted to back out but would have to go ahead because he was too involved. Jurors also heard from FBI agents about the discovery of a pink receipt for a ton of fertilizer in Nichols’ kitchen, blasting caps in his basement, and the Arkansas robbery victim’s guns in a storage room and the garage.

Jurors were told Nichols also had ammonium nitrate fertilizer in bottles inside the house and had spread it on his weedy yard two days after the bombing.

Prosecutors contend the two men wanted to avenge the Branch Davidians who died in a fire during an FBI raid of their religious compound near Waco, Texas, exactly two years before. Nichols admitted to FBI agents he had heard talk at gun shows that the government had murdered the Davidians and sometimes thought that way, too.

Among the key evidence before the jury is a letter Nichols wrote in November 1994 to be given to McVeigh in the event of his death during a visit to the Philippines. His ex-wife, Lana Padilla, opened it instead and made a copy which she later turned over to the FBI “Go For IT!!” Nichols wrote.

Nichols, 49, was convicted at a federal trial of the bombing conspiracy and the involuntary manslaughter of eight federal agents.

His state case focuses on the 160 other fatalities as well as the loss of an unborn girl.

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The Oklahoman, USA
Apr. 30, 2004
Nolan Clay

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday April 30, 2004.
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