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5:52 PM Mon, Oct. 22nd

Nichols' case goes to Oklahoma jury

McALESTER, Okla.

(AP) – Terry Nichols' state murder case went to the jury Tuesday after prosecutors argued Nichols was more involved in the conspiracy to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building than Timothy McVeigh.

Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors didn't prove their case.

They said other co-conspirators helped McVeigh plan the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, and set Nichols up to take the blame.

The jury of six men and six women was sequestered for the night in a local motel after listening to about 10 hours of closing arguments over two days.

If Nichols is convicted, his trial on 161 counts of first-degree murder will move into a penalty phase in which jurors will decide whether he is sentenced to death by lethal injection or life in prison.

Nichols, 49, already is serving a federal life sentence for involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy charges in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers who were killed.

In Oklahoma, he's charged with the deaths of the other 160 victims of the April 19, 1995, bombing plus one fetus whose mother was killed in the blast.

Prosecutor Sandra Elliott said Nichols and McVeigh worked hand-in-hand to plan the bombing of the Alfred P.

Murrah Federal Building.

Prosecutors allege that Nichols, who met McVeigh in the Army and shared his hatred of the federal government.

Defense attorneys poked at holes in the bombing investigation and attacked scientific evidence they said raised more questions than they answered.

Defense attorney Brian Hermansono attacked the testimony of chief prosecution witness Michael Fortier, saying Fortier was blaming Nichols to protect himself.

Fortier testified that McVeigh told him Nichols was deeply involved in the bomb plot.

Fortier, a former Kingman resident, pleaded guilty to bombing-related charges and was sentenced to 12 years in prison after agreeing to testify for prosecutors in McVeigh's federal trial and Nichols' trials.