Glaring across the courtroom at Terry Nichols, the sister of a U.S. Customs agent killed in the Oklahoma City bombing emphasized each word with rage Tuesday as she testified: “My brother loved this country.”
It marked the first time Nichols’ jury had seen a display of anger from any of the three dozen victims’ relatives, rescuers and police who have testified this week in support of the prosecution’s plea for the death penalty.
Nichols showed no reaction as Kay Ice Fulton of Beaumont, Texas, talked about Paul Ice, who spent 20 years as a Marine before he joined Customs and became one of the eight federal agents to die in the April 19, 1995, blast.
“He was so, so proud to be able to take care of everyone in this room and everyone in this country,” Fulton said.
“He was the consummate family person - son, brother, father, nephew, cousin. He loved his family,” she said, her voice breaking. “My brother loved this country and protecting it.”
Prosecutors contend Nichols and co-defendant Timothy McVeigh hatched the bomb plot to retaliate against the government for the deadly FBI siege at Waco in 1993. The blast destroyed the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah federal building, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500.
While the 29-year-old McVeigh was convicted earlier this year on all 11 murder and conspiracy charges and sentenced him to death, a jury last week convicted Nichols, 42, of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, not murder, concluding he did not set out to kill anyone.
Given the split verdict against Nichols, legal experts believe it unlikely the jury will go along with the prosecution request for the death penalty.
Still, prosecutors did their best to fill the courtroom with the sights and sounds of the bombing aftermath. They showed a videotape of an emergency room, where bloodied victims, including children in wheelchairs, were being treated as sirens blared and doctors shouted orders. A foot on one victim was twisted backward.
Several victims’ relatives gasped. Nichols stared into a computer screen, watching the brief display.