Nichols’ former Army friend Timothy McVeigh was convicted on federal charges and executed in June 2002 for the bombing. Prosecutors say the two carried out the attack to avenge the U.S. government’s siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, which killed 81 people. The Oklahoma City bombing took place on the second anniversary of the Waco siege.
Nichols, 49, is currently serving a life sentence for conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officials who were killed in the bombing.
Wednesday’s verdict holds him accountable for the deaths of the remaining 160 victims, as well as the fetus of a pregnant woman who was killed.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Nichols worked in tandem with McVeigh to gather materials and assemble the ammonium nitrate fertilizer-and-fuel bomb that obliterated the Alfred P. Murrah building, killing 168 people.
Witnesses testified that Nichols purchased the fertilizer and stole detonation cord, blasting caps and other elements for the explosive device. FBI agents searched Nichols’ home three days after the bombing and discovered a receipt for 2,000 pounds of fertilizer.
The prosecution asserted that Nichols and McVeigh acquired the materials over a seven-month period leading up to the attack, and met on April 18, 1995 in a park near Junction City, Kan., to transfer the materials to a yellow Ryder truck. Nichols was at his home in Kansas when the explosion occurred.
Michael Fortier, a friend of McVeigh’s who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for knowing about the bombing plot and not telling police, testified about Nichols’ role in assembling the bomb materials. Fortier also said McVeigh told him Nichols was heavily involved in the plot.
There were no witnesses that could identify Nichols as the man who bought the fertilizer.
After the verdict was announced, victims’ family members hugged the prosecutors.
Diane Leonard, whose husband was killed in the bombing, told the Associated Press that she was “thrilled for these families.”
“After nine years, the families who lost loved ones finally have justice,” she said.
The defense argued that their client was taking the fall for a wider circle of co-conspirators who were involved in orchestrating the bombing.
“This is a case about manipulation, betrayal and overreaching. People who are still unknown assisted Timothy McVeigh,” lawyer Barbara Bergman said in closing.
The trial, which lasted for two months, was moved from Oklahoma City to McAlester, Okla., due to the difficulty of finding an impartial jury for the case.
The jury will now decide whether he should be punished with the death sentence or life in prison. The trial’s penalty phase is due to start Tuesday, and is expected to last four to six weeks. It will include testimony from survivors of the attack, as well as family members of those killed.