Storm Over Nichols Verdict

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DENVER: Faced with what has become the most disputed decision since the O.J. trial, Judge Richard Matsch rejected arguments Wednesday from Terry Nichols' attorney Michael Tigar who claims the verdict against his client contradicts itself. A Denver jury found Terry Nichols guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to make the bomb and involuntary manslaughter in the Oklahoma City bombing but not premeditated murder.

Tigar isn't alone. While President Clinton tried to accentuate the positive by thanking lawyers for a "successful prosecution," few people back in Oklahoma City could be found who understood the verdict let alone agreed with it. "What I heard in the courtroom today is a disgrace," said Jannie Coverdale, who lost two grandsons in the 1995 blast. "It's a disgrace to all Americans." Legal experts and citizens alike are asking this very basic question: If Nichols is guilty of "conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction," how can he not be guilty of murder? "How dare that jury think that 168 deaths is involuntary manslaughter," fumed Darlene Welch, whose 4-year-old niece was killed in the blast.

Now that Judge Matsch has nixed a Christmas Eve reprieve for Nichols, the sentencing phase of the trial will start Monday. A conviction on conspiracy charges may still lead to the death penalty. Add to that the possibility of trying Nichols for the murder of the other 160 victims, not just eight federal agents, which Oklahoma DA Bob Macy seems rather keen to do. But the question remains -- will any verdict truly satisfy a city torn apart by the most murderous act in American history?

With contributions from Reuters and the Associated Press