Albion Monitor /News

Post-Trial Focus on Head of Terry Nichols Jury

by Bill Johnson

Death threats claimed
(AR) OKLAHOMA CITY -- The forewoman of the Terry Nichols jury, accused by some of making anti-government remarks at a post-trial press conference, told police her life was threatened.

Niki Deutchman, an obstetrical nurse, told Denver police a man called her home three times Wednesday night and "threatened to blow up the ... house." Federal authorities refused to comment but did confirm that she had filed the bomb threat report.

Deutchman was forewoman of the federal court jury that convicted Nichols of being a part of the conspiracy to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building. But although the jury deliberated for more than 13 hours, it was unable to decide on a sentence for Nichols, leaving that up to U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch.

As a result, Nichols, 42, escapes the possibility of being sentenced to die. Under federal criminal law, only a jury may impose a sentence of death. Matsch could fix a punishment as high as life in prison.

Jury forewoman criticizes FBI for "sloppy" investigation and "arrogance"
Deutchman held a news conference shortly after the jury was discharged on Tuesday and castigated the FBI for "dropping the ball" in the search for other suspects in the bombing, the worst mass murder in U.S. history. She said she thought there were others who were more involved in the conspiracy than Nichols.

She also said the FBI had been "sloppy" in its investigation, particularly in the handling of evidence at the FBI laboratory, and showed "arrogance" in not tape-recording interviews with witnesses.

"It's hard to say from the evidence presented exactly what Terry Nichols' involvement was," she said at one point during the press conference.

At another point she said, "I think there are other people out there" who were part of the conspiracy. "It's an obligation to find them and to bring them into the justice system."

A number of the bombing survivors and relatives of those who died reacted angrily to her comments.

"I think there were probably John Doe No. 2 and maybe No. 3 and No. 4, but they weren't on trial, and the FBI wasn't on trial," said Jannie Coverdale, whose two young grandchildren died in the April 19, 1995, bombing. "Terry Nichols was on trial, and they had enough to convict him."

"I think Niki Deutchman was paying more attention to how Michael Tigar performed than to the evidence," said Roy Sells, who lost his wife, Leora Lee, in the bombing. Tigar was Nichols' lead attorney.

Coverdale also was critical of Deutchman for saying all the evidence against Nichols was circumstantial. Coverdale said the evidence against Timothy McVeigh also was circumstantial, but was sufficient for another Denver jury to give him the death penalty.

McVeigh was identified as the person who actually bombed the building, setting off a two-ton fertilizer bomb he had concealed in a rented truck. The government accused Nichols of helping accumulate the raw materials for the bomb and of helping to mix the ingredients together.

Another who was outspoken about Deutchman's comments was Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, who has vowed to bring McVeigh and Nichols back to Oklahoma for trial. Macy commented that Deutchman would never have been allowed on a jury in Oklahoma in which the death penalty was being sought.

Deutchman said she closed her eyes to send "energetic healing vibes" to the victims because she knew they were in pain
Nichols was convicted on only one of the conspiracy-type charges in connection with the bombing, but that charge could have carried the death penalty. Although 168 people died in the bombing, federal law allowed murder charges to be brought only in connection with the deaths of the eight federal agents who were killed.

Macy has said he plans to file 160 murder charges against the pair. He met with his top assistants on Thursday to begin planning the trial strategy.

Most observers believe, however, that it will be years -- if ever -- before Nichols and McVeigh could be returned to Oklahoma for trial.

Coverdale and Sells, both of whom attended the McVeigh and Nichols trials in Denver, said they thought the McVeigh jury paid better attention and that the comments that jury made to the media after the trial showed they were knowledgeable about the evidence.

Sells and Coverdale specifically mentioned the testimony about Nichols' handwriting, his purchase of bomb-making materials and his use of aliases.

"Where the jurors were when that evidence was presented, I don't know," Sells said.

Both also noted that Deutchman and at least two other jurors seemed to doze off -- or at least have their eyes closed -- during some testimony. When asked about that at her press conference, Deutchman said she closed her eyes to send "energetic healing vibes" to the victims because she knew they were in pain. She told reporters the healing vibes were a mixture of prayer and meditation.

"If I need a healer, I know how to find one," Coverdale said angrily. "She wasn't supposed to be doing spiritual healing in the courtroom. She was supposed to be a juror, listening to the evidence."

Sells said he believed Tigar was intent on getting Deutchman on the jury because she had anti-government views. He said she told the court during the period when jurors were being picked that she was generally opposed to the death penalty, a stance she reiterated at the press conference.

But, Sells said, "Tigar just kept after her until she said she could 'consider' the death penalty. That doesn't mean she would ever actually vote for it."

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Albion Monitor January 12, 1998 (

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