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Prosecution: Nichols Chose Path Defense Claims Government’s Case ‘Woefully Lacking’

TUESDAY, DEC. 16, 1997

Backed by two huge photos of the Oklahoma City federal building - before and after the bombing - a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Monday that Terry Nichols all but abandoned his family, took up with Timothy McVeigh and set out on a “road to destruction.”

That road was illustrated in court with a picture of a two-lane blacktop marked with signs detailing each step the Army buddies allegedly took before the blast: hiding behind aliases, renting storage sheds, collecting bomb components and finally building the bomb that took 168 lives.

“At each stop along the road, Terry Nichols made a choice, a choice to participate in the plot to bomb and kill,” said prosecutor Beth Wilkinson.

But Nichols’ attorneys contended the government’s case is “woefully lacking,” and they attacked everything from the FBI’s handling of evidence to the testimony of star prosecution witness Michael Fortier.

“The Marine Corps builds men. The FBI builds witnesses,” said lead defense attorney Michael Tigar, recalling that Fortier initially lied to the FBI, but changed his mind and implicated McVeigh and Nichols.

Tigar said Fortier’s testimony was “bought and paid for,” reminding jurors that Fortier testified under an agreement in which he may get a reduction in a sentence after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI and failing to warn authorities of the bomb plot.

“The government has skimmed over a lot of holes in the case and asked you to speculate,” added Nichols attorney Ron Woods. “It’s woefully lacking.”

The defense began its argument late Monday afternoon, and was to finish today.

Wilkinson assailed the defense’s case, challenging testimony about others who may have been involved in the bombing as “Elvis sightings,” and pointing out that Nichols did not have an alibi for the day when the two men allegedly built the bomb inside a Ryder truck.

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