For one group of Coloradans, the mixed judgment rendered by a jury last week in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Terry Nichols was particularly surprising.
Just months before, these Denver area residents had sat on the 12-member panel that considered much of the same evidence before finding Nichols’ co-defendant and Army buddy, Timothy McVeigh, guilty and sentencing him to death.
“Maybe it’s irrational, but I felt a little bit angry about the whole thing,” said Fred Clarke, a computer programmer. “It just seems like they dropped the ball to me.”
As the Nichols jury begins hearing evidence today in the trial’s punishment phase, its mixed verdict - convicting Nichols of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction but acquitting him on eight murder counts - puzzles the McVeigh jurors.
Nichols, 42, could be sentenced to death on the conspiracy conviction in the April 19, 1995, truck bombing that killed 168 people, including 19 children.
McVeigh jurors cited four key differences in the two trials that might have contributed to the mixed verdict: The Nichols jury wasn’t sequestered, it was given the option of convicting him on lesser charges, deliberations stretched into Christmas week and often-gruesome, emotional testimony of survivors was limited.