Nichols Conviction: What's Next?

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DENVER: In what is sure to become the most controversial verdict since the O.J. Simpson trial, A Denver jury found Terry Nichols guilty Tuesday of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the Oklahoma City bombing — but not guilty of premeditated murder.

Such a convoluted decision, reached after a marathon 41 hours of deliberation, “may generate considerable comment ... (and) may be criticized by some and praised by others,” said Judge Richard Matsch. He wasn’t wrong. Nichols’ attorney Michael Tigar immediately asked for a hearing with Matsch to examine the verdict.

In Washington, President Clinton tried to accentuate the positive. “The successful prosecution of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols should offer a measure of comfort that all Americans stand with the families of Oklahoma City,” he said in a statement, adding his thanks to the prosecution team for their hard work: “The nation is deeply in their debt.”

Next comes the question of whether Nichols should get life behind bars or death by injection — a conviction on conspiracy charges may or may not lead to the death penalty. Add to that the possibility that the Oklahoma City DA succeeds in getting Nichols to stand trial a second time, for the murder of all 168 victims, not just the eight federal agents around which the Denver trial hinged. But there's doubt that any number of convictions will satisfy a city still torn apart by the most murderous act in American history.