Arrow-right Camera


Many Avoid Serving On Nichols Jury Juror Prospects Voice Excuses, Strong Opinions To Miss Trial

Mon., Oct. 6, 1997, midnight

As attorneys in the second Oklahoma City bombing trial head into their second week of jury selection Monday, they hope to find more civic-minded and less selfish prospects.

Much of the first week, they found prospective jurors who didn’t want to put their families, their careers and possibly their salaries on hold to sit in judgment of Terry Nichols.

One woman said she would walk away from jury duty if her aging parents needed her, no matter the consequences.

A computer programmer said jury service could force him to declare bankruptcy and would disrupt his troubled marriage. He said his clients were so upset about his possible service that they wanted to write U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch in protest.

Another was concerned about whether she would be able to meet her mortgage payment if she had to serve, since her company only paid for limited jury duty.

Twenty-six prospective jurors were questioned in the first five days. Twelve were excused by Matsch, with the other five to be considered later this week.

That means nine have so far qualified for a final pool of 64, from which the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen.

During the first week of Timothy McVeigh’s trial, 31 prospective jurors were questioned. Nearly 100 candidates were considered during a 17-day period before the final panel was seated.

Part of the finding a good jury is simply luck, said Denver attorney Andrew Cohen, who is serving as a media analyst for the trial and also observed McVeigh’s trial.

“I think we got a bad random draw this first week,” Cohen said. “We went through a streak of jurors who had such strong opinions one way or the other that it was fairly clear that they were going to be off this panel.”

Serving on the McVeigh jury was emotionally taxing. It began with testimony from a young mother whose son died in a day care inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed by a truck bomb. Interspersed through the government’s case were bombing survivors, rescue workers and relatives of victims who told gripping tales of survival and lost loved ones.

Perhaps after watching what McVeigh’s jurors endured, some people don’t want to be on the Nichols jury, Cohen said.


Click here to comment on this story »