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Fireworks Expected at Bombing Trial

  • Observers expect the Nichols trial to be far more explosive than the McVeigh case.
By Mike Blair

The trial of Terry L. Nichols, the second defendant to be tried in the terrorist-type bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, is scheduled to start September 29 in Denver.

The only other conspirator in the case to be prosecuted by the Justice Department has been Timothy J. McVeigh. McVeigh was found guilty of conspiracy and murder last summer. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection and is currently appealing the verdict and sentence.

According to most legal experts, the Nichols trial is expected to be filled with more clashes between the federal prosecutors and the defense than in the McVeigh trial.

Nichols's defense is headed by Michael Tigar, a University of Texas law professor with experience in high-profile cases. He is known to be highly aggressive in the courtroom.

Tigar was the attorney who prevented Detroit autoworker John Demjanjuk's extradition a second time after the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction in Israel of being the alleged Nazi death camp guard known as "Ivan the Terrible."

Other high-profile clients of Tigar have been former New York Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, who was acquitted in 1980 of two tax evasion charges; Angela Davis, an anti-war activist who was acquitted of charges stemming from a deadly 1970 shoot-out at a California courthouse; the late Texas Gov. John Connally, who was acquitted in 1975 of charges of taking a bribe to influence government milk price supports; and Debra Meeks, an Air Force major, who was acquitted in a 1996 court-martial for charges relating to an alleged affair with another woman.

Another who can be counted as grateful for Tigar's courtroom prowess is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), who was acquitted in 1994 of charges she used her earlier office as Texas state treasure for personal and political gain.

Assisting Tigar is Houston attorney Ronald Woods. Woods has been criminal defense attorney since 1993. Before that, he was a government prosecutor. His prosecutorial experience gives him, observers say, a good perspective as he defends Nichols against federal prosecutors.

As for his former prosecutorial associates, Woods has been quoted as saying, "They don't know due process from processed cheese. They don't have the slightest idea what is fair in criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions."


As a prosecutor, Woods was known as being "hard-nosed" and "squeaky clean." One longtime associate commented he would 'seek an indictment against his mother if he thought there was probable cause."

Woods has been critical of his former employers. "Over a period of years,' he said recently, "I've seen them become more and more dishonest, more and more deceitful. And you're seeing it more and more every day across the country in a number of big cases."