High Court Rejects Nichols Appeal
Nichols has already been convicted on federal charges of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter for his role in the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people.
Oklahoma wants to try Nichols on 160 counts of first-degree murder and other charges. The state would seek the death penalty, which alluded federal prosecutors. Timothy McVeigh, who carried out what was at the time the worse act of terrorism in the U.S., was executed last June.
The justices refused to consider Nichols’ arguments that another trial would amount to double jeopardy. In October, the high court refused to hear arguments that the FBI’s belated release of investigation documents to Nichols’ attorneys affected his federal trial.
In court documents outlining the argument rejected today, Nichols’ lawyer, Brian Hermanson, claimed federal and state officers and prosecutors worked together on the investigation and 1997 trial that ended with Nichols’ federal sentence of life in prison.
“The power and majesty of the federal sovereign and a state sovereign were conjoined in a massive criminal law enforcement enterprise which at first worked jointly to convict Mr. Nichols, and now seeks to separate one from the other to try him again for the same offenses,” Hermanson wrote.
Hermanson argued the government charges are similar to the ones for which Nichols was acquitted by a federal jury. He said the state trial would allow prosecutors to “take a second bite at the apple.”
Oklahoma prosecutors said the original plan was to follow a federal trial with a state trial.
“Although [Nichols] alleges that this was a ‘massive, well-funded and sophisticated joint federal-state law enforcement enterprise,’ they have failed to prove that it was a joint enterprise in any form or fashion,” Oklahoma prosecutor John Jacobsen wrote in the government’s case.
Jacobsen has also said the state charges refer to different victims than the federal charges.
Prosecutors in the federal case contended that former Army friends Nichols, 42, and McVeigh, 29, worked together for months to plot the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in retaliation for the deadly FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas two years earlier.
The defense argued the two men were business associates, but that Nichols was a family man who rejected McVeigh’s violent plan.
The prosecution has not disputed Nichols’ claim that he was in his Kansas farmhouse more than 200 miles away at the time of the bombing.
The next step in the state’s case is a preliminary hearing to determine whether enough evidence exists to put Nichols on trial.