A federal judge refused Friday to move the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Terry Nichols, saying he could get a fair trial in Denver, where co-defendant Timothy McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to death.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said any potential jurors tainted by what they saw during McVeigh’s trial could be discovered through extensive questioning.
Jury selection for Nichols is scheduled to begin Sept. 29. His lawyers asked Matsch to move the trial to San Francisco, contending it would be unfair to ask Colorado jurors to hear a second trial in the deadly bombing.
The Nichols defense also argued that media coverage of McVeigh’s trial precluded Nichols from receiving a fair trial in Denver.
“The argument is contrary to the court’s experience in jury selection in the trial of Mr. McVeigh,” Matsch wrote.
“The court denied a motion to delay that trial and expressed confidence that a fair-minded jury could be selected. … That confidence was not misplaced.”
“The same procedures, with appropriate modifications, will be followed in jury selection for the trial of Mr. Nichols,” the judge wrote.
Nichols is charged with murder, conspiracy and weapons-related counts in the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
A jury convicted McVeigh of identical charges June 2. He was formally sentenced to death Thursday.
To shield their identities, potential jurors in McVeigh’s trial were identified by numbers during three weeks of questioning. They were renumbered into six panels and the panels were designated A through F.
Nichols’ attorney Michael Tigar said media coverage of the case has been so widespread that Denver-area residents have adopted Oklahoma City as a “sister city.”
Prosecutors argued that potential jurors in Colorado can be just as fair to Nichols as they were to McVeigh.
“Nichols’ blatant attempt to pick the forum least likely to return a death sentence should not be countenanced,” prosecutor Sean Connelly said, arguing that San Francisco is known as “a liberal, anti-death penalty jurisdiction.”
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