One of the men responsible for what is now the second worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil lost his bid for a new trial when the Supreme Court shot down his arguments Monday.
Terry Nichols' request for a reconsideration of his case was based on a major FBI flub in which the agency had failed to turn over to his defense lawyers thousands of pages of evidence related to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He said the mishandled papers, which were discovered this spring, could have helped his case, and demanded a hearing or trial with an eye on a new trial.
The Justice Department replied that nothing in the documents would have helped Nichols, and that their belated discovery was not enough reason to reopen the case.
The Supreme Court, however, remained mum on that, simply refusing to review the case, without comment.
The court had already rejected an appeal from Nichols' when the document problem became public in May. A lawyer for Nichols quickly asked the court to reconsider.
Nichols' lawyer argued that the FBI may have deliberately withheld information from both the bombing defendants and federal prosecutors. Nichols also claimed to have found at least two instances in which federal prosecutors argued points in court that are contradicted by the new information.
The court routinely rejects such requests for a second chance, but this time took the unusual step of ordering the Justice Department to respond.
Nichols, 46, was convicted in federal court of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter and is serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing, which killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others.
Co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh was convicted as the bombing's mastermind and was executed in June after dropping an appeal also based on the FBI paperwork that had not been turned over.
Nichols may face another trial and a possible death sentence in state court in Oklahoma for the 160 victims, including 19 children, who were not part of his federal trial.
An Oklahoma City prosecutor said last month he will press ahead with those charges, in part as an insurance policy if Nichols somehow won an appeal or other challenge of his federal sentence.
The deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers were the focus of the federal trial.