CBSN

Lying To Get On Nichols OKC Jury?

Terry Nichols is shown in a Jan. 31, 2000, police photo taken in Oklahoma City. Eight years after the Oklahoma City bombing, Nichols was to appear before a judge Monday, May 5, 2003, at a preliminary hearing that will determine whether there is enough evidence to send him to trial on 160 counts of first-degree murder. Nichols, 48, is already serving a federal sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
AP
Revelations that some prospective jurors said they would lie to be selected to possibly convict and sentence Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols will complicate efforts to seat jurors.

Judge Steven Taylor said a new line of questioning will be developed to address allegations by one prospective juror that others were willing to lie to get on the jury for Nichols' state murder trial.

"I'm going to deal with this," Taylor said Tuesday during the seventh day of jury selection for Nichols' state trial for the bombing. Jury selection was scheduled to resume Wednesday.

"If this is true — and that's a big if — it underlines a fundamental flaw about this trial," says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "That is the idea that Nichols can be fairly tried, and given the presumption of innocence to which he is entitled, when just about everyone in the state believes he is guilty. It's a theme that is going to come up on appeal and have some traction if and when Nichols is convicted and sentenced to death."

The issue was revealed as the prospective juror said she overheard other possible panelists say they would say anything to get on the jury. The woman was retained on the panel.

"I'll do whatever it takes to get up there," she paraphrased one of them as saying. "I'm going to say what I can to get on the jury. My decision is already made."

She said she overheard three or four jurors make similar comments when more than 350 people summoned for jury duty in the case met for orientation Feb. 23. None of the people she overheard make the statements are among the 37 prospective jurors still being considered for Nichols' jury, she said.

She identified one of the prospective jurors by name, but court rules prohibit revealing the names of members of Nichols' jury pool.

Taylor said that if there is evidence jurors have ulterior motives to be on Nichols' jury, "they will be gone in a second. But I cannot presume or guess that."

He added: "We must operate under the assumption that people are giving us truthful answers."

"I suspect there aren't too many Oklahomans who are open-minded about Nichols after his federal conspiracy conviction," says Cohen.

Taylor denied requests by defense attorney Brian Hermanson to declare a mistrial and dismiss prospective jurors.

"This is every defense attorney's nightmare, the fact that people are trying to get on the jury to get our client," Hermanson said.

Defense attorneys have argued that strong feelings about the bombing and pretrial publicity in Oklahoma would prevent Nichols from getting a fair trial on 161 counts of first-degree murder.

Nichols is serving a life prison sentence for the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. He was convicted in 1997 on federal bombing charges for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers.

The state charges are for the 160 other victims and one victim's fetus. Nichols could get the death penalty if convicted.

Bombing coconspirator Timothy McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges and sentenced to death. He was executed in 2001.

Prosecutors allege Nichols, 48, helped McVeigh assemble the ingredients for the bomb and build it.