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Is Nichols’ side poised to play `family card’?

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The anguish from Oklahoma City bombing victims was so thick in the courtroom this week that jurors were warned not to let it dictate the penalty for Terry Nichols. Don't expect his lawyers to fight it, either.

When family and friends of the convicted co-conspirator take the stand, they are expected to tell jurors that Nichols is a devoted father and husband whose role in the deadly bombing does not merit a death sentence.Defense witnesses in the trial's penalty phase began testifying Friday. Nichols' ex-wife, Lana Padilla, and her three sons were among those expected to take the stand.

Defense attorney Michael Tigar has already told the jury that convicted Nichols of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy to build a weapon of mass destruction that "a sentence of death is never re-quired."

Tigar said Nichols' "life pattern," including his love for his family, was inconsistent with an intent to kill anyone. Tigar also said Nichols' involvement in the bombing plot was "minimal," another fact the jury could use to spare Nichols' life.

Andrew Cohen, a trial analyst and Denver attorney, said Tigar has a big hurdle to jump to overcome the tearful, angry testimony by 55 bombing victims and rescuers who described the carnage and loss. Their stories were part of prosecutors' plea for the death penalty for Nichols.

"Tigar won't even try to jump that hurdle; he'll run in a different direction," Cohen said. "He's telling the jurors, `We don't disagree this is a terrible thing, but this is Terry Nichols the individual whose role in this crime was so small he doesn't deserve to die.' "