OKLAHOMA CITY — A judge decided Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry L. Nichols will be tried next spring on 162 state murder charges, saying it gives both sides enough time to prepare their cases.
Nichols, 48, could face the death penalty if convicted for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people.
He already is serving a life sentence in a federal prison for the bombing. Nichols was convicted on federal conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter charges for the deaths of eight law enforcement officers.
He now faces counts in state court for the remaining victims, including two counts for two fetuses whose mothers died in the blast.
Judge Steven Taylor ruled Friday that the trial will begin March 1, 2004, and denied requests by prosecutors and defense attorneys for other dates. Prosecutors wanted the trial to start in November or December; defense attorneys requested a date in January 2005.
"There is no doubt that this case requires much time due to the volume of evidence," he said. "But it cannot be stated too often that counsel for both sides have had over three years and now have an additional nine months to fully prepare."
The judge also scheduled several pretrial hearings, which could involve such issues as the location of the trial. Defense attorneys contend that publicity has made it impossible for Nichols to get a fair trial in Oklahoma.
The federal trials of Nichols and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh were moved to Denver after a federal judge ruled that the pair couldn't get fair proceedings in Oklahoma.