Jurors say seven favored death for Nichols in Okla. bombing case Several are outraged by forewoman's remarks

January 11, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

DENVER -- In vote after vote, a majority of jurors raised their hands to sentence Terry Nichols to death, but they were blocked by a few determined holdouts, said two jurors in the second Oklahoma bombing trial.

"I pressed for the death penalty," Thomas Baker, a 41-year-old shipping clerk, said Friday. "This was a crime that warranted the death penalty."

Three votes cast in two days of deliberation in a federal courtroom here indicated that a hard-core faction of seven of the 12 jurors favored the death penalty, said Chris Seib, a bank employee who was one of them.

But they could not sway the others, and Tuesday evening, the divided jury sent U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch a note saying, "We are 'hung.' " Federal law requires unanimity from jurors to recommend a death sentence.

In the deliberations, the leader of the opposition to the death sentence appeared to have been the jury's low-key forewoman, Niki Deutchman.

"Terry Nichols wasn't directly present or implicated with anything," Deutchman, a 47-year-old registered nurse, said Wednesday in her only public comments.

In a 75-minute news conference, Deutchman criticized prosecutors, praised the defense lawyers, expressed understanding for people "unhappy with the government" and occasionally referred to Nichols as "Terry."

The news conference, in a city park, outraged several jurors, prompting four of them to declare publicly that they had sought to sentence Nichols to death.

"I thought, 'Who is this person?' " a visibly angry Seib said after watching Deutchman's news conference, which was carried live here on television. Seib, who was the victim of a bank holdup a few weeks before she began serving on the jury, said of Deutchman, "We were at two different ends of the spectrum."

Baker said his reaction to Deutchman's news conference was, "Hey, slow down there." On Thursday, Baker, an Air Force veteran who writes poetry, met with three survivors and then broke his vow of silence about the deliberations.

"I wanted to let the survivors, the bomb victims, know that we are not anti-government and that we cared about them," he said Friday. "The day it was taken away from us, we were ready to go back and deliberate."

Holly Hanlin, a juror opposed to a death sentence, said of the dismissal that left some jurors crying, others laughing, "This experience has shown me that people can look at one thing and see two different things."

Now, it will be up to Matsch to sentence Nichols, 42, who was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, in which 168 persons died.

The most severe sentence that Matsch can impose will be life without parole.

In the days after the jury deadlock, Deutchman has become a lightning rod for dissatisfaction with the trial outcome. Not only have bomb victims bitterly criticized her comments, but, several hours after her news conference, a man called her at home three times, threatening to blow up her house, according to a police report.

A Gallup Poll conducted last week for USA Today found that 45 percent of 1,105 adults surveyed believed that Nichols should be sentenced to death. Life in prison won the support of 42 percent. A lesser sentence was backed by 4 percent.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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