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Opening arguments are Monday in Nichols trial

Seven women and five men were selected Thursday to serve as jurors in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Terry Nichols, clearing the way for opening statements Monday in the second and final case stemming from the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people.

Nichols, a 42-year-old father of three, faces the death penalty if convicted on 11 charges of murder and conspiracy in the truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. His co-defendant and former Army buddy, Timothy McVeigh, 29, was convicted and sentenced to death in June.

Attorneys for Nichols and the government spent 4{ weeks closely questioning prospective panelists. Six alternate jurors, evenly split by gender, also were chosen Thursday.

The panel that will decide Nichols' fate includes two bus drivers; a day care worker; a bank clerk; a soda machine installer; a telemarketer; a loading-dock worker; a maintenance employee; a nurse; a remedial reading tutor; a contract seamstress, whose husband is a corrections officer; and a geophysicist. Two of the jurors are African-American, several said they have had personal experience with crime, and many acknowledged wrestling with how they feel about the death penalty. To preserve their anonymity, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch has the jurors identified only by numbers.

Prosecutors say Nichols robbed a gun dealer to finance the plot and helped McVeigh build the bomb set off in the deadliest terrorist act ever on U.S. soil.

Though the government's case against Nichols closely parallels the case against McVeigh, legal observers think prosecutors face a tougher task in convincing a jury of his guilt.

First and foremost, as Nichols's attorney has frequently pointed out and the government acknowledges, the Michigan native was not in Oklahoma City when a massive bomb packed into the cargo compartment of a rented Ryder truck exploded there. Nichols was at home at the time, with his family in Herington, Kan., and two days later when he learned of McVeigh's arrest he voluntarily submitted to a nine-hour interview with FBI agents.

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