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Justices refuse to block Nichols trial

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court dealt another loss to Terry Nichols, refusing Monday to block a trial that could bring him the death penalty for the Oklahoma City bombing.

Nichols has already been convicted on federal charges for his role in the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people. At issue now is the state's effort to try him on more charges.

Justices, without comment, turned back his claims that another trial would be double jeopardy.

The refusal to intervene is the latest in a string of Supreme Court losses for Nichols, who was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the attack on the Oklahoma City federal office building. Timothy McVeigh, the bombing's mastermind, was executed in June.

Justices refused in October to consider arguments that the FBI's belated release of investigation documents to Nichols' attorneys affected his federal trial. And last spring Nichols lost an appeal of his conviction.

Those cases pit Nichols against the federal government, which won convictions but not the death penalty. The latest case involves the state's plans to try him on 160 counts of first-degree murder and other charges.

Nichols' lawyer, Brian Hermanson, said federal and state officers and prosecutors worked together on the investigation and 1997 trial that ended with Nichols' federal sentence of life in prison.

"The power and majesty of the federal sovereign and a state sovereign were conjoined in a massive criminal law enforcement enterprise which at first worked jointly to convict Mr. Nichols, and now seeks to separate one from the other to try him again for the same offenses," Hermanson wrote.

He said the two "seek to step apart from one another in order 'to take a second bite at the apple.'"

Oklahoma prosecutors said they planned all along to follow the federal trial — regardless of the outcome — with a state trial.

"Although (Nichols) alleges that this was a 'massive, well-funded and sophisticated joint federal-state law enforcement enterprise,' they have failed to prove that it was a joint enterprise in any form or fashion," Oklahoma prosecutor John Jacobsen wrote in the government's case.

The April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 and injured more than 500, was at the time the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

In other rulings, the court:

Cleared the way for employees of Consolidated Freightways, one of the country's largest trucking companies, to pursue an invasion-of-privacy suit against the company, which installed video surveillance cameras in bathrooms.

Refused to revive a lawsuit against the Navy over a holiday rafting accident, turning back a challenge to far-reaching limits on military lawsuits.

Declined to be drawn into a debate over the teaching of evolution in America's public schools. The refusal is a victory for schools that require teachers to instruct on the subject even if the teacher disagrees with the scientific theory.