Prosecution Rests in Nichols Penalty Phase
McALESTER, Okla. – Prosecutors rested their sentencing case Thursday in the murder trial of Oklahoma City bombing (search) conspirator Terry Nichols (search) after three days of testimony aimed at persuading jurors to give him the death penalty.
Members of victims' families testified about the emotional and psychological impact of the victims' deaths. One woman recalled a father who had always told her the world wasn't such a bad place; a husband said Nichols robbed him of his "best friend and confidante."
Defense attorneys will begin calling witnesses Monday to try to spare Nichols' life.
The jury convicted Nichols of 161 counts of first-degree murder on May 26 and heard from 65 prosecution witnesses in the sentencing phase. Judge Steven Taylor planned a hearing for Friday on prosecution motions to exclude certain defense witnesses.
Nichols already is serving life in prison on federal charges for conspiracy and the deaths of eight federal agents in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (search), which killed 168 people.
Oklahoma prosecutors charged Nichols for the other 160 people who died and one victim's fetus.
Prosecutors concluded their sentencing case with testimony from people who lost family members in the bombing.
Carla Wade, a broadcast journalist whose father, Johnny Allen Wade, was killed in the blast, said she experiences nightmares in which her father appears to her in various places such as airports and shopping centers. She said she wakes up disoriented and has to look at newspapers or a calendar to assure herself that it was only a dream.
She often recalls her father's favorite saying: "Smile, kid. The world isn't as bad as you think it is."
Following her testimony, Nichols removed his glasses and appeared to wipe tears from his eyes.
Melissa Webster, a paramedic, said she and other ambulance crews treated 500 to 600 people at a triage station set up about a block from the federal building. As many as 250 were severely injured, she said.
"There were hundreds of people in the street and I didn't see anyone who wasn't bleeding," she said.
Webster said she also treated children who had been in the nearby YMCA and were cut by shards of glass propelled like missiles by the explosion.
"I don't think there was anyone there who didn't have lacerations to the face, the arms," she said.
Sue Mallonee of the Oklahoma Department of Health said 759 people were killed or injured.
Late Thursday, Taylor denied defense motions to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty and from instructing jurors it can be imposed because Nichols knowingly exposed more than one person to death in the bombing.
But Taylor granted Nichols' motion to prohibit prosecutors from also seeking the death penalty because he constitutes a continuing threat to society. Taylor said prosecutors hadn't given a sufficient reason for giving that instruction to the jury.
During victims' testimony earlier Thursday, defense attorney Brian Hermanson objected when James Texter Jr. read parts of his written statement.
"How has the bombing impacted me?" Texter asked. "Mr. Nichols took away my wife ..."
Victoria Texter worked in the Federal Employees Credit Union on the building's third floor.
Taylor told jurors to disregard the direct reference to Nichols, which he said prosecutors and defense attorneys had edited out of Texter's statement.
Texter also said he and the couple's son, who was 15 when the bombing occurred, struggled to cope following his wife's death.
"Vicki was not only my wife, she was my best friend and confidante," he said.