Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols: Oklahoma Bombing

Saved by Religion

After three days and 65 witnesses, the prosecution team wrapped up its arguments in the sentencing phase. Soon after the defense team presented its arguments, which primarily focused on Nichols' religious transformation while in prison. They claimed that Nichols was a changed man who had become a devout Christian and had the capacity to help others find their way through God. Talley quoted defense attorney Creekmore Wallace in a June 9, 2004 AP Worldstream article, saying, "I'm placing his future in your hands... vote for love. Don't kill my client."

Even though the use of religion as a defense strategy angered some in the courtroom, it definitely worked in Nichols' favor. On June 9, 2004 the jury deliberated for 19 ½ hours before returning a verdict. The majority voted against the death penalty, sentencing Nichols instead to life in prison. It was his second time escaping execution.

Brian Hermanson
Brian Hermanson

The verdict came as a surprise to many, especially the prosecution team who believed that Nichols' would be sentenced to death. Defense attorney Brian Hermanson was quoted in a June 12, 2004 Newsday article saying, "They (the state) spent a huge amount of money. They caused a huge amount of heartache for a lot of people and basically we reached the same results as the federal case." It was a sentiment shared by many that day. Many of the survivors and relatives of victims expressed outrage at the verdict. Juror Cecil Reeder said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, "if this magnitude of crime doesn't justify the death penalty, what does?" reported Phil Magers in a June 14, 2004 UPI article.

In August, Nichols' stood before the court and apologized for the murders. An August 10, 2004 Newsday article reported that Nichols made a lengthy statement, "laced with religious references," in which he asked for forgiveness and "offered to correspond with survivors from jail to 'assist in their healing process.'" Darlene Welch whose niece was killed in the explosion was quoted in the article saying that she "didn't appreciate being preached to by him "and that her "regret is that he won't stand before God sooner."

 

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