Across the street from the remains of the building they are accused of destroying, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges they carried out the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
"Sir, I plead not guilty," a solemn McVeigh said to Magistrate Ronald Howland as Howland asked him for his pleas. McVeigh, dressed in prison khakis, stood quietly with his arms behind his back and showed no emotion."Your honor, I am innocent," Nichols told the magistrate at his arraignment, which was held separately. Unlike McVeigh, he appeared in court in street clothes - blue blazer, light blue shirt and khaki trousers.
The two are charged in the April 19 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
Defense attorney Michael Tigar protested the seating of Nichols' family at the back of the courtroom, when court employees were given seats up front. Nichols' mother, brother, sister and brother-in-law were in the courtroom.
Sharon Coyne, a deputy court clerk whose 14-month-old daughter died in the blast, said it wasn't uncommon for court employees to be in the courtroom. She said in her mind both defendants are presumed innocent.
"We believe in the law and that they are innocent until proven guilty," she said.
McVeigh and Nichols were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury.
The men were brought to the courthouse from the Federal Correctional Center at El Reno in separate vehicles in a caravan of police and marshal units.
Each appearance took about 10 minutes. Howland did not set a trial date and gave the defense and prosecution one week to work out a scheduling agreement for motions in the case.
Asked about McVeigh's seemingly relaxed manner in court, defense attorney Stephen Jones said, "Maybe he has confidence in his lawyers, I certainly hope so, confidence in the judicial system that he will be found not guilty.
"I have said before . . . that the Tim McVeigh that is the real Tim McVeigh is not the young man who was walked out of the courthouse in Perry (two days after the bombings). What you're seeing today and what you've seen before is the more natural Tim."
At the courthouse, Nichols' brother, James, waited for the start of the hearing. Asked why he was in Oklahoma City, Nichols responded, "Why? To support Terry."
A third man, Michael Fortier, was also indicted Thursday. He immediately pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for testifying against his onetime Army buddies.