Nichols’ trial is blatant push for death penalty

Seventy percent of Oklahoma residents are against the new trial, which is plagued by constitutional problems.

Last week, arguments began in the Oklahoma case of Terry Nichols, the federally convicted conspirator in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The state trial is an unprecedented move to attain the death penalty for Nichols. Though not illegal, the trial represents a co-op of the justice system to satisfy a small group that will not stop until they achieve fatal retribution.

In 2001, Timothy McVeigh, Nichols’ co-conspirator and alleged mastermind of the bombing, was executed in Indiana. The execution was the outcome of a federal trial that found McVeigh guilty of murdering eight federal officers inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Nichols was presumably in Kansas during the bombing, and therefore a Denver, Colo., jury found him guilty of manslaughter and conspiracy – convictions that did not carry the death penalty.

Nichols now faces trial for the murder of the other 160 people who died despite his previous conviction that guarantees he will die in jail. The proceedings will be almost identical to the trial in Denver and are overwhelmingly unpopular in Oklahoma – a recent poll found that 70 percent of residents are against the new trial. The final cost to Oklahomans promises to be more than $4 million.

In addition to being fiscally unsound and ineffectual, the process is plagued by constitutional infringement. Earlier this month defense attorneys faced the unenviable task of jury selection in a town approximately two hours away from where the crime occurred. A fair trial is impossible in Oklahoma: One potential juror already came forward and said she heard others say they planned on lying to get on the jury and give Nichols the death penalty.

Among the reasons to essentially retry Nichols, the unwavering anger among some victims’ families and their fundamental belief that his death is the only answer to their pain stands out most. Their reason is one of the oldest and most compelling arguments for the death penalty, particularly in the face of terrorism. Nonetheless, the blind desire to attain retribution out of anger cannot and should not usurp established systems of justice and must answer to greater cultural expectations.