OKLAHOMA CITY – Already serving life in federal prison, Oklahoma City bombing (search) conspirator Terry Nichols (search) is set to be sentenced to life in state prison Monday, and his attorneys say he may use the occasion to speak publicly for the first time since he went on trial.
The possibility of a statement gives new hope to victims' families who question whether the bombing conspiracy was limited to Nichols and bomber Timothy McVeigh (search).
"Some day I hope that Terry will come forward and tell the truth, that God will lead him to tell the truth," said Tina Tomlin, whose husband, Department of Transportation special agent Rick Tomlin, was killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
"I've always felt that there were others unknown involved," said Gloria Chipman, whose husband, Robert Chipman, was killed in the state Water Resources Board building across the street.
Nichols, 49, was convicted in state court on May 26 on 161 counts of murder but was spared the death penalty when his jury deadlocked on a sentence.
He never testified during his state and federal trials and said nothing after he was convicted in federal court.
However, he is seriously considering making a statement in court before state District Judge Steven Taylor sentences him Monday to more life terms. He has a legal right to make a statement to plead for mercy, express remorse or apologize to victims.
"It's one of the things that could happen," lead defense attorney Brian Hermanson said.
Defense attorney Creekmore Wallace said he does not know what Nichols might say.
"I hope he lets us see it first," Wallace said.
Nichols was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1998 on federal involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy convictions for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers. Jurors at that trial also deadlocked on whether to sentence Nichols to death.
The state charges are for the other 160 victims and one victim's fetus.
McVeigh was convicted of federal conspiracy and murder charges and executed on June 11, 2001.
Paul Howell, whose daughter, federal credit union employee Karan Howell Shepherd, was among the victims, and survivors of other victims said they were disappointed Nichols was not sentenced to death.
"I thought if anywhere that we could get a just sentence, it would be here in Oklahoma with our own people. Evidently, something went wrong," Howell said. "I think Nichols considers himself pretty damn lucky."
The chief prosecutor, Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane, said he was satisfied that there has finally been resolution of the case even without the death penalty.
"We have kept our word. We have held him accountable," Lane said.
Nichols will have 10 days after he is sentenced to appeal his conviction and sentence, but Wallace said the attorneys are urging Nichols not to appeal.
Hermanson said a successful appeal that invalidated the conviction and sentence could result in a second state trial and another attempt to secure a death penalty.