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Nichols' trial pits rival legal styles

Lead Oklahoma City bombing prosecutor Larry Mackey is an eye-of-the-storm kind of guy, calming and methodical in the courtroom and rarely raising his voice or gesturing.

His opponent, lead defense attorney Michael Tigar, often is the storm, unpredictable and theatrical, pulling obscure facts out of the air to prove his points.

Their sharply contrasting styles promise to set the stage for sharp drama when the bombing trial of Terry Nichols begins today.

As different as the two antagonists are, so are the cases against Nichols and McVeigh, who was convicted and condemned to die for the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people.

Both Nichols and McVeigh were charged with murder, conspiracy and weapons-related counts.

But defense attorneys repeatedly have emphasized Nichols wasn't in Oklahoma City when the bomb went off and that he voluntarily went to police when he heard his name on newscasts two days after the blast. They also say he had no advance knowledge of McVeigh's plan.

So far, while Mackey left the bulk of the juror questioning to his assistants, Tigar and co-counsel Ron Woods used the time to begin building their case.

Tigar tried to develop a rapport with each prospect: He spoke Latin with a Latin teacher, discussed bioenergetics with a health clinic manager and talked about goats with a woman who lives on a farm.

Roy Sells, whose wife, Leora Lee, died in the bombing, called Tigar a good lawyer "who is slick with words and phrases . . . who is going to try to persuade this jury that his version is the honest-to-God truth."