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Nichols lawyers try to cast doubt on FBI lab

As the government began presenting its testimony in the second Oklahoma City bombing trial, defense lawyers for Terry Nichols sought Tuesday to cast doubts about the FBI's performance in gathering evidence and to suggest that key pieces were contaminated.

The defense strategy is aimed at convincing the federal court jury that sweeping problems at the FBI crime lab in Washington spilled over into the bombing case, creating questions about the value of the analyses done by FBI experts on the residue of the April 19, 1995, explosion that killed 168 people.

On Tuesday, the defense closely cross-examined the first FBI official to testify in the trial about evidence that was stored in what the witness himself described as a dusty and crammed environment in Oklahoma City.

Attorneys for Nichols' convicted co-defendant, Timothy McVeigh, also wanted to try this same tactic during his trial earlier this year. But U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch severely limited the amount of testimony from an internal Department of Justice investigation that found major failings at the FBI lab earlier this year.

How far the Nichols defense will be allowed to go by Matsch remains to be seen. But his attorneys are wasting no time in attempting to knock holes in the FBI's work.

Nichols' former army pal, McVeigh, was convicted and sentenced to death in the case.