Crystal J. Doucette
Ed De La Garza
Nikie Johnson Ellen Simonson
What could be the last chapter in the Oklahoma
City bombing case has just begun.
That city's new district attorney announced
Wednesday night he will pursue the state's case against Terry Nichols.
Nichols was convicted in federal courts
of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred
P. Murrah Federal Building in
Oklahoma City that killed 168 people --
the deadliest act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil. He is serving
a life sentence for his work in
helping prepare the bomb and the truck
that carried it, as well as for the deaths of eight federal agents.
The state trial, however, would be on 160
counts of first-degree murder, and could result in the death penalty.
District Attorney Wes Lane's announcement
has sparked much controversy as to what is the right thing to do.
Victims and their families are divided
on wanting the trial to go forth. Some think enough is enough, and don't
want to be reminded of their pain;
others just want him to fry.
But that's not the point. The American
justice system doesn't operate based on what the masses want. We have grand
juries to hear the facts of the
case and be unbiased in deciding whether
there's enough evidence to go to trial.
If the grand jury decides there is enough
evidence, the case goes to trial -- regardless of popular sentiment.
Lane told the Associated Press he made
his decision partly because Nichols is appealing his federal conviction,
and he didn't want him to go
unpunished if the appeals should work.
Nichols' attorney, Brian Hermanson, has
said Nichols is willing to end his federal appeals and accept a life sentence
to avoid the state trial with its
chance of a death sentence.
But neither of those are the point, either.
The point should be that a jury in Oklahoma must decide whether Nichols'
conspiracy with Timothy
McVeigh (who was executed in June for
the bombing) makes him responsible for 160 of those deaths.
If the jury decides that what he did is
enough to make him guilty of 160 murders and deserving of the death penalty,
will executing him serve a
Will it tell terrorists -- from the United
States and from foreign countries -- that we condemn their actions? Will
it say that we won't tolerate terrorism in
other countries? Will it send the message
that we think these actions are so horrible they nullify the terrorists'
most basic right to life? Will some of
the most staunchly anti-death penalty
ideologists agree that in a case this extreme, capital punishment is the
right thing to do?