Appeals court overturns order allowing deposition of Terry Nichols

Oklahoma City » SLC lawyer seeks information about his brother's 1995 prison death.
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The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday overturned a judge's ruling allowing a Utah attorney to conduct videotaped depositions of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and a death-row inmate.

Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue believes Nichols and David Paul Hammer have information about his brother's 1995 death in an Oklahoma City federal prison -- and about the FBI's alleged withholding of many of the relevant documents requested in his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball in Salt Lake City granted Trentadue's request in 2007 to conduct the depositions. He reaffirmed that order in September after the FBI asked him to reconsider.

The agency appealed and the 10th Circuit said the two inmates "clearly have no knowledge regarding FBI procedures in filing and searching for records." Allowing the depositions would be an abuse of the judicial process, the Denver-based court said.

The body of Kenneth Trentadue, who had served time for bank robbery and was being held on an alleged parole violation, was found hanging in his cell on Aug. 21, 1995. The death was ruled a suicide, but his family believes Trentadue was mistaken for a bombing conspirator and that guards strangled him in an interrogation that got out of hand.

Nichols and Hammer already have supplied Jesse Trentadue with written affidavits concerning Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the bombing and was executed in 2001.

Nichols -- who is serving a life sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colo. -- said a high-ranking FBI official "apparently" was directing McVeigh in the plot. Both Nichols and Hammer, who says he had lengthy conversations with McVeigh while the two were housed together on death row at the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind., say McVeigh claimed to be an undercover operative for the military.

The FBI has denied any role in the bombing.