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Associated Press Writer

PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) – Deciding at the last possible moment not to appeal his conviction, Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols brought his case to a final close, saying he hoped it would begin a “long-awaited healing process.”

For Nichols, it means a life in prison with no further recourse. And while it also means that he won’t risk facing the death penalty ever again, survivors and families of the victims say his decision comes as a relief.

“I think he probably realized the futility of the whole thing,” said bombing survivor Florence Rogers, the retired chief executive of the Federal Employees Credit Union.

Eighteen people in the credit union and 150 others in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building were killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing.

Nichols’ attorney, Brian Hermanson, announced Nichols’ decision Thursday, the deadline to notify the court if Nichols planned to appeal his conviction and life prison sentences on 161 counts of first-degree murder.

“After careful consideration, Terry Nichols has decided not to file an appeal of his state convictions in order to immediately bring this case to a close,” Hermanson said in a brief statement read in the lobby of the federal courthouse in Ponca City.

“As he said in his sentencing, Terry sincerely hopes that the final conclusion of this case will be the beginning of a long-awaited healing process for all those impacted by the bombing,” Hermanson said.

Richard Williams, who survived the blast, said Nichols’ decision will allow victims to move on.

“I think we need to get beyond this part of our journey,” Williams said. “I don’t use the word closure, because I don’t believe in it. There’s never a day that goes by that we don’t think about it.”

Nichols’ attorneys had advised against an appeal because it might open the door for a new trial and another opportunity for prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

“If I were Terry, I wouldn’t have filed for an appeal,” said Jannie Coverdale, whose two grandsons died in the blast. “I didn’t think he was dumb enough to file another appeal – that would be committing suicide. Another trial in Oklahoma, and he would have died.”

Bomber Timothy McVeigh was convicted of federal conspiracy and murder charges and executed June 11, 2001.

Nichols, 49, was already serving a life sentence on federal charges for the bombing, the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers. Jurors at his federal trial deadlocked on whether to sentence him to death.

Nichols was spared the death penalty a second time when his state jury deadlocked on a penalty on June 11 following a 15-week trial. The state charges are for the other 160 victims and one victim’s fetus.

The chief prosecutor, Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane, urged Nichols to cooperate with investigators who are still looking for other bombing conspirators.

“Since this case is now completely over and Terry Nichols has claimed that he is truly sorry for his actions, he should now be willing to fully respond to these families’ many unanswered questions concerning the events surrounding the Murrah Building bombing,” Lane said.

Lane has said he expects Nichols to be returned to federal custody, a prospect that pleases Rogers.

“I am hopeful that he will be sent to a federal prison,” Rogers said. “Some of the survivors and family members will be relieved that he isn’t here anymore, that they don’t have to worry about him anymore.”

AP-ES-08-20-04 0157EDT

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