McALESTER, Okla. – A prosecutor argued Tuesday that Terry Nichols (search) deserves the death penalty for the "terror and tragedy" he inflicted on 161 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and their families.
"Think of them as individual human beings," said the prosecutor, Suzanne Lister. "One-hundred-sixty-one. Nineteen children. Some of their bodies are torn beyond recognition. Some are decapitated."
Two members of the jury wept as Lister made closing arguments in the penalty phase of Nichols' state murder trial.
His lawyer, Barbara Bergman (search), urged the 12-member panel to return a life prison sentence, arguing there is no evidence Nichols intended to hurt anyone and that the bombing of the federal building was the obsession of executed bomber Timothy McVeigh.
"Terry Nichols is a man who has made some mistakes in his life," Bergman said. But she said his role in the bombing merits a life sentence instead of death.
"You must now decide do you kill Terry Nichols," Bergman told the jury of six men and six women. "He is a person with a heart and a soul, and a person whose life is worth saving."
Closing arguments began after the last of 22 defense witnesses testified during the penalty phase of Nichols' trial. The arguments will continue Wednesday, before jurors are sequestered while they decide Nichols' sentence.
Jurors convicted Nichols on 161 first-degree murder charges on May 26.
Nichols, 49, is already serving a life sentence for the deaths of eight federal agents in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (search), which killed 168 people.
The state charges are for the other 160 victims and one fetus whose mother died in the blast.
Lister said Tuesday that Nichols and McVeigh worked together to gather components and build the 4,000-pound fertilizer bomb.
"He gathered, he purchased, he stole, he stored," Lister said of Nichols. "He knew exactly what he was doing."
Prosecutors alleged that Nichols and McVeigh shared anti-government beliefs and planned the bombing to avenge the deaths of about 80 people at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, exactly two years before the bombing.
"Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh (search) conspired and committed the largest act of domestic terrorism that has ever been committed on American soil," she said. "Terry Nichols is a terrorist. One hundred-sixty-one men, women and children paid for Terry Nichols' political statement."
Defense attorneys argued Nichols has become religious since the bombing and has corresponded with prayer partners and made cards for his children, including his 21-year-old son, Joshua.
Lister was skeptical. "Where are the Easter cards to Josh before he was caught and forced to stand trial?" she asked. "They don't exist. He has generated them for purposes of this proceeding."
Two people who lost loved ones in the bombing testified Tuesday on Nichols' behalf, recounting how they came to accept the deaths and reconcile their feelings about him. Both Kathy Wilburn and Bud Welch have said they oppose the death penalty.