WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court delayed a ruling in Terry Nichols' request for a new trial in the Oklahoma City bombing case, saying the government must first respond to his assertion that mishandled evidence in Timothy McVeigh's case adversely affected him.
The court's decision Monday to order a response from the Justice Department raised the possibility that the justices would reopen the case involving Nichols, convicted as a conspirator in the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
This came in the wake of the disclosure that the FBI failed to provide McVeigh's attorneys with thousands of documents at the time of McVeigh's trial in 1997.
Lawyers for McVeigh last week asked a federal court in Denver to stay his scheduled June 11 execution for the bombing at a federal prison facility in Terre Haute, Ind.
The court's brief order on Monday asked the Justice Department to respond to Nichols' assertion that the mishandled material might have affected Nichols' trial.
But that order did not address allegations by Nichols' lawyer that the FBI may have deliberately withheld information both from the bombing defendants and from federal prosecutors.
Nichols was sentenced in 1997 to life in prison after he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy for his role in the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people. He was acquitted on federal charges of first- and second-degree murder.
Nichols has long contended that his lawyers did not have access to all the investigative material due them before trial. That allegation was the basis of an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court earlier this spring, before the revelation that the FBI had failed to turn over more than 4,400 documents to lawyers for Nichols and McVeigh.
Nichols' lawyer, Michael Tigar, tried to revive the appeal after the FBI admitted the blunder.
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