Nichols Could Get New Trial

Oklahoma City

To the surprise of many court observers, the no-nonsense federal judge who oversaw both Oklahoma City bombing trials granted convicted conspirator Terry Nichols a hearing this summer to determine if he should be given a new trial.

During the two-hour July 7 hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch pointedly questioned federal prosecutors about documents withheld from Nichols' defense team. In the end, Matsch said he would review trial transcripts before ruling.

In earlier rulings on matters brought up by defense attorneys, the judge has showed little sympathy for pleas made on behalf of Nichols and co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh.

Nichols' attorney, Michael Tigar, contends that in deciding which leads to pursue while investigating the bombing that killed 168 people, the government dismissed tips that didn't fit into its theory that Nichols and McVeigh acted alone.

Tigar pointed to 43,000 documents, some of them tips related to supposed sightings of "John Doe No. 2" (who looked like neither Nichols nor McVeigh), which the defense was never shown. Prosecutors countered that the government had turned over the 12,000 pertinent FBI files. They said the other documents, mainly about McVeigh associates, were irrelevant to Nichols.

Outside the courtroom, survivors and relatives of the victims said that while disappointed that a hearing was held, they were confident Matsch would deny a new trial.

"The conspiracy was proven," said survivor Martin Cash. "The conspiracy was what he was found guilty of and there isn't anything that's going to change that."