SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The older man in a father-son team convicted of planting a bomb that killed two police officers in an Oregon bank had previously plotted detailed schemes to murder people he didn't like, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Bruce Turnidge even once described a fantasy about killing then-President Bill Clinton, prosecutor Courtland Geyer told jurors before recommending that they sentence Turnidge to death in the 2008 killings in Woodburn.
A day earlier, the same jury convicted Turnidge and his son, Joshua Turnidge, of aggravated murder and other charges. The son was not in court Thursday; his sentencing will come later after jurors decide on a penalty for his father.
If the alleged plots were real, the fact that Bruce Turnidge never acted on them shows that he isn't the terrible person that prosecutors portray him to be, his lawyer, John Storkel, said in his opening statement for the trial's sentencing phase.
Witnesses testified that Turnidge once plotted to kill his uncle, with whom he had long-standing money disputes. An excellent marksman, Turnidge had the uncle in his gun-scope and was all set to pull the trigger when he backed down, his brother, Pat Turnidge, testified.
Barb Gibson, the wife of a Turnidge business partner, testified that Turnidge once told her a similar story about an unnamed relative.
Pat Turnidge said he believed his brother's anger at the uncle was motivated primarily by the uncle's decision to evict Turnidge's family from a farm in Nevada as the defendant's young son Jesse was dying of a brain tumor.
Geyer told jurors they'd also hear evidence that Bruce Turnidge had developed an elaborate scheme to kill a man who had a long-standing land dispute with a friend.
Prosecutors sought to portray Turnidge as an influential evangelist for his anti-government, anti-authority beliefs.
Geyer told jurors they'd hear testimony that cop killers are revered in prison and Turnidge would be seen as a celebrity — someone looked up to and given a "soapbox" to share his views.
A death sentence would put Turnidge in a higher security ward where he'd have very limited access to other inmates, Geyer said.
"What this means is safety from crimes that lurk inside the mind of Bruce Turnidge," Geyer said.
Storkel said prison is far more complex than prosecutors will make it out to be, and Turnidge would want to behave himself well to maintain his access to visitors.
"He's going to be somebody that's going to want to keep the relationships that he holds important active and alive," Storkel said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.