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Brian Nichols (left) could face the death penalty for the shooting rampage that killed a judge, court reporter and sheriff's deputy at the Fulton County Courthouse in 2005. (AP Photo)​

The Associated Press

ATLANTA - Prosecutors played a haunting audiotape of a 2005 courthouse shooting rampage that left four people dead as they launched their case against the alleged gunman Monday, while his attorneys said he was so deluded he believed he was carrying out a rebellion.
Brian Nichols could face the death penalty for the shootings of a judge, court reporter and sheriff's deputy at the Fulton County Courthouse, and a federal agent later that day. Nichols, 36, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers say he couldn't tell right from wrong.
During opening statements in Nichols' oft-delayed trial, Fulton County prosecutor Kellie Hill called him a "conniving, vicious, cold-blooded, remorseless, evil and extremely dangerous killer" who carefully planned the attack and methodically sought out his targets.
"He's not insane," she said. "He had a plan. And we're going to bring you proof of the plan."
Prosecutors say Nichols was being escorted to a courtroom where he was being tried for rape on March 11, 2005, when he beat a deputy guarding him, stole her gun and went on a shooting spree.
As Hill played a brief audio clip of a routine court hearing interrupted by gun shots and terrified screams, Nichols sat silently, his eyes downcast. Relatives of the victims wept and Nichols' father abruptly stalked out of the courtroom.
The defense team countered that Nichols was "swallowed whole" with a belief that he was a slave rebelling against authority. While others looked at the judge with respect, Nichols saw him as an enemy, said defense attorney Henderson Hill.
"What you will see is that these delusions were real for Mr. Nichols," he said. "He believed in them as you believe that ice is cold, that night follows day. These were truisms for him."
Since Nichols' arrest three years ago, the effort to bring his case to trial has been beset by a series of complications that have alternately astonished and outraged a community trying to recover from the shootings that turned Fulton County's seat of justice into a crime scene.
Lawmakers furious at a state-funded defense bill of at least $1.8 million have threatened to cut more funding to the state's public defender system. Nichols has been accused of plotting an escape. And the district attorney sued the presiding judge, who later stepped down.
The new judge, James Bodiford, has vowed to keep the case on track and brushed off an attempt by Nichols' attorneys to delay the trial again. Defense attorneys called for a mistrial after the audio clip was played, but Bodiford overruled them.
"I think we've waited long enough," Bodiford said Monday. "And I think both sides are in good shape, so I don't worry about any issues about lawyers being ready."
The judge also admonished an alternate juror who wrote a letter asking to be excused for "emotional" and "mental" reasons. Bodiford said the man, whom he compared to a soldier deserting his army, would become a "shadow juror." That means he will be expected to sit in the audience throughout the trial but will not help decide the case.
The trial, being held a few blocks from the scene of the downtown Atlanta shootings, could last months. It took nine weeks to select a jury of eight women and four men, and more than 600 witnesses could be called.
The trial began amid high security. Police cordoned off streets outside the Atlanta Municipal Courthouse, guards with bomb-sniffing dogs roamed the hallways and visitors were siphoned through two separate security checkpoints.
Nichols is accused of fatally shooting Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Ann Brandau in the courthouse and sheriff's Deputy Hoyt Teasley just outside the building. A fourth victim, federal agent David Wilhelm, was killed at a north Atlanta home he was renovating.
In addition to the costs for Nichols' defense, the shootings have also gouged the budget for Fulton County, which is on the hook for at least $10 million in settlement fees to victims' families.
Barnes' widow won a $5.2 million lawsuit last month. And county commissioners on Wednesday agreed to pay $5 million to Brandau's daughter, Christina Scholte, who also sued.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Ex-deputy testifies in Ga. courthouse shooting trial

By Rhonda Cook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA, Ga. - Retired Fulton County Deputy Grantley White sobbed as he recounted one of his greatest heartaches to his already damaged heart; the day his friend and the judge he protected was shot dead while sitting on the bench.
White said he was testifying in the Brian Nichols case despite the risk of aggravating an existing heart condition because it was his duty.
White is to continue testifying today, when the trial begins its second week.
A former sheriff's sergeant, White is credited with being one of the heros of the courthouse shooting, having faked a heart attack so he could fall and press a silent alarm while Nichols had a gun pointed at him and three others held hostage in the private office of Judge Rowland Barnes.
The deputy also blasted over the sheriff's office radio system the news that Barnes and court reporter Julie Ann Brandau had been shot, and he provided a description of Nichols and a warning that the fugitive was armed with two guns he had taken from White and another deputy.
Nichols is charged with the deaths of Barnes, Brandau and two other people during his escape. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
White, 58, described the start of March 11, 2005, as a routine day. Brandau had brought a cake for the jurors who were expected to begin deliberating that day the charges that Nichols raped a former girlfriend. White filled the coffee pot and collected ice to put in the jury room.
Before leaving the jury room for the daily roll call in the Sheriff's Office, White said, "I raised both hands in the air to God and prayed that God would protect me. ... While I was doing that, I felt heat in my hands. I didn't know what it was for."
White then asked Barnes if he could grab breakfast while the judge heard arguments in a civil case before returning to the Nichols criminal case.
When White returned to the judge's office with his eggs and toast, Nichols was waiting, gun in hand.
"He said, 'Come on back, Sarge. Don't do nothing. Don't do nothing, Sarge,'" White said.
White said he tried to grab the gun Nichols was pointing, but the rape defendant stepped back and warned him again. "'Don't do nothing. I've got nothing to lose.' I knew my life was in jeopardy. I wanted to disarm him."
Instead, White had to handcuff two others in the office and then himself.
Moments later, White testified, he heard shots, fled the restroom where Nichols had left him and broadcast an alarm.
"I tried to go into the courtroom, and someone held me back," White testified.
"I saw Judge Barnes on the floor. ... I saw Julie."
As White sobbed, unable to say anything more, Brandau's daughter, Christina Scholte, fled the courtroom.

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Jury debates guilt of Atlanta courthouse shooter


Brian Nichols, center, appears in court at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta. Nichols was in shackles and was escorted by deputies. (AP Photo)


By Greg Bluestein
Associated Press

ATLANTA - Jurors on Thursday began deliberating the fate of a confessed gunman who says he was legally insane when he killed four people in a shooting spree that began at a downtown Atlanta courthouse.
Brian Nichols, 36, faces the death penalty in the fatal shootings of a judge, a court reporter, a deputy and a federal agent in the 2005 rampage. But he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming he was gripped by a delusional compulsion that he was a slave rebelling against authority.
The 12 jurors have several options, including convicting or exonerating him, finding him not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill. Another option, which is rare in Georgia's judicial system, would require the prison system to evaluate Nichols and determine a punishment.
If a jury returns either of the guilty verdicts, the panel must then decide if he deserves the death sentence. If he's found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will likely go to a state mental hospital.
During the six-week trial, Nichols attorneys and a psychologist say phone conversations while he was in jail were evidence of his delusions. A psychiatrist who testified for the state said he found Nichols was mentally ill although he would not diagnose him as delusional.
During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said Nichols concocted the stories of his delusions to avoid capital punishment.
"It didn't have anything to do with insanity or delusion. The defendant was angry and he was frustrated," said Clint Rucker, a prosecutor. "He is conniving, he is cold-blooded, he is vicious, he is remorseless and he is extremely, extremely dangerous."
His attorneys argued their client is no criminal mastermind and that his murderous plan "only succeeded because a thousand things went wrong."
"Rise above the emotion and the heartbreak and the sorrow of this case," said defense attorney Josh Moore. "Look at the evidence and weigh it with fairness. It's going to take courage, but we know at the end of the day you will come to a just conclusion."
Nichols was being escorted to a courtroom where he was being tried for rape on March 11, 2005, when he beat a deputy guarding him, stole her gun and started his shooting spree. He then evaded the hundreds of police on his trail, fleeing to suburban Gwinnett County.
He was captured a day later after a woman he took hostage, Ashley Smith Robinson, alerted police of his whereabouts.

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ATLANTA-- A man who escaped from custody during his rape trial and launched a deadly courthouse shooting spree that claimed the lives of a judge and three others was convicted of murder today more than three years after the rampage.
BRian Nichols, 36, could face the death penalty for killing a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy and a federal agent in the violence that began at the Fulton County Courthouse in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
Nichols had confessed to the killings, but claimed he was legally insane and gripped by a delusional compulsion that he was a slave rebelling against authority. Jurors rejected that argument, finding him guilty of murder and dozens of other charges, including aggravated assault, false imprisonment, hijacking a motor vehicle and armed robbery.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said Nichols concocted his delusions to avoid the death penalty. A psychiatrist who testified for the state said he found Nichols mentally ill, but would not diagnose him as delusional. Nichols' attorneys said phone conversations in jail were evidence of his delusions.

"It didn't have anything to do with insanity or delusion. The defendant was angry and he was frustrated," said Clint Rucker, a Fulton County prosecutor. "He is conniving, he is cold-blooded, he is vicious, he is remorseless and he is extremely, extremely dangerous."

Nichols' lawyers contended their client is no criminal mastermind and that his murderous plan "only succeeded because a thousand things went wrong."

"Rise above the emotion and the heartbreak and the sorrow of this case," defense attorney Josh Moore urged the jury.

Nichols was being escorted to a courtroom in downtown Atlanta where he was being tried for rape on March 11, 2005, when he beat a deputy guarding him, stole her gun and went on a shooting spree. He killed Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau and Deputy Hoyt Teasley in a 12-minute span and then fled to the busy street outside the courthouse.

He escaped downtown Atlanta in a stolen car and managed to evade the hundreds of police officers searching for him through the night. He headed for Atlanta's posh Buckhead neighborhood, where he shot and killed federal agent David Wilhelm outside the house he was renovating.

He was captured the next day after a woman he took hostage, Ashley Smith Robinson, alerted police of his whereabouts. Smith Robinson soon was credited with bringing a peaceful ending to the rampage by, in her account, appealing to his religious beliefs and giving him illegal drugs from her hidden stash.

"I said whatever was necessary to get on his good side, I guess," she testified in court last month.

The trial was held amid high security in a municipal courthouse a few blocks from the scene of the shootings. Police cordoned off the streets outside the building and visitors were screened through two separate checkpoints.

Since Nichols was arrested three years ago, his case has been beset by complications that have outraged a community seeking to recover from the notorious shootings.

Nichols had been accused of plotting an escape from jail with his pen-pal girlfriend. Lawmakers furious at a defense bill that tops $1.8 million have used the trial as a rallying cry to cut funding to Georgia's fledgling public defender system. And the district attorney sued the presiding judge, Hilton Fuller, who later stepped down after he was quoted as saying of Nichols, "everyone in the world knows he did it."

As the verdict was read, Nichols sat stoically and silently. Relatives of the victims dabbed at their eyes, but exploded in tears and congratulatory hugs in the adjoining courtroom where they gathered after the verdict.

Attorneys and prosecutors declined to speak to reporters until Nichols is sentenced.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Nichols Killed Court Reporter Over Cookies, Brownies, Psychiatrist Testifies

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 - updated: 9:56 am EST November 26, 2008

ATLANTA -- Fulton County Courthouse killer Brian Nichols may have murdered court reporter Julie Brandau because of the cookies and brownies she baked for juries.

Defesne psychiatrist Richard Dudley testified Tuesday that Nichols felt Brandau was influencing the jury with her gifts and that's why he killed her during the March 11, 2005 rampage that left four people dead.

Brandau was well-known around the courthouse for giving juries baked goods to make them feel more comfortable.

"He thought she was tampering with the jury by bringing them brownies and cookies," Dudley said. "It was his belief that she was part of the conspiracy."

Investigators had been puzzled over why Nichols shot Brandau. She was the only court staffer he killed.

Nichols said he believed the baking showed Brandau was helping the judge and prosecutors convict him, Dudley said.

Nichols was found guilty earlier this month in the fatal shootings of Brandau, Judge Rowland Barnes, Deputy Hoyt Teasley and Federal Agent David Wilhem.

The 36-year-old Nichols pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. But the jury soundly rejected his claims, finding him guilty of all 54 counts against him, including murder and aggravated assault.

The same jury is now hearing testimony in the sentencing phase of his trial.

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Judge sentences courthouse shooter to life



Fri Dec 12, 9:34 PM ET

Brian Nichols sits with members of his defense team as the sentencing phase of his trial continues Monday Dec. 1, 2008, at the Atlanta Municipal Court Building in downtown Atlanta. Nichols was found guilty Nov. 7 of murdering a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy and a federal agent when he escaped from a 2005 rape trial.(AP Photo/Kimberly Smith,Pool)

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer Greg Bluestein, Associated Press Writer - 52 mins ago

ATLANTA - A judge on Saturday sentenced the man who killed four people in a brazen courthouse escape to multiple life sentences with no chance of parole and hundreds more years on more than fifty charges.
Brian Nichols, 37, was found guilty last month of murder and dozens of other counts for the March 2005 rampage that led from a downtown courthouse to an Atlanta neighborhood and ended with his capture the next day in a suburban county.
He will likely die in prison after Superior Court Judge James Bodiford handed down the maximum sentence on each charge, to run consecutively.
"If there was any more I could give you, I would," the judge said.
Nichols was spared multiple death sentences when his jury failed to reach a unanimous decision recommending the punishment, as required by Georgia law.
Nichols, who did not take the stand in his own defense, spoke in court for the first time on Saturday.
"I just wanted to say that I know that the things I've done caused a lot of pain and I'm sorry," he said. "And I just wanted to say that I will not bring dishonor to the decision to spare my life. That's it."
The sentence caps more than three years of efforts to bring Nichols to justice since his arrest that were repeatedly bogged down by legal complications, frustrating victims' relatives and angering state legislators over the costs.
Some critics asked why prosecutors pursued the death penalty so aggressively even after Nichols had offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.
In closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Clint Rucker called Nichols an "extremely dangerous" killer who would try to escape again if sent to prison for life. Defense attorneys urged jurors to avoid vengeance.
Nichols was being escorted to his trial for rape when he beat a deputy guarding him and stole her gun. He burst into the courtroom and shot and killed Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau and Deputy Hoyt Teasley.
He fled downtown Atlanta and managed to evade hundreds of police officers searching for him overnight. In Atlanta's posh Buckhead neighborhood, he shot and killed federal agent David Wilhelm at a house the agent was renovating.
Nichols was captured the next day in suburban Gwinnett County after a woman he took hostage, Ashley Smith Robinson, alerted police to his whereabouts. Smith Robinson was credited with bringing a peaceful ending to the rampage by appealing to Nichols' religious beliefs and giving him illegal drugs.
Nichols, who was raised in Baltimore, confessed to the killings but claimed he was legally insane and that he believed he was a slave rebelling against his masters. Prosecutors argued that he concocted the delusions to avoid the death penalty.
The rampage prompted attorneys and judges to question their safety and law enforcement around the state to re-examine courthouse security measures.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081213/ap_on_re_us/atlanta_courthouse_shooting
 

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No death penalty for Ga. courthouse shooter

By Bill Rankin
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA - There will be no death penalty for Brian Nichols.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias announced he will not seek death against the quadruple murderer, ending a case that began with a bloody rampage four years ago at Georgia's busiest courthouse.
A "careful and thorough review" by federal prosecutors and FBI agents led them to conclude that a federal prosecution against Nichols was unwarranted, Nahmias said in a statement.
Nichols was sentenced in December to life in prison without parole after a Fulton County jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, deadlocking 9-3 in favor of death.
District Attorney Paul Howard asked Nahmias to pursue capital charges in federal court because Nichols killed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent In Charge David Wilhelm.
Howard on Tuesday accepted Nahmias' decision with "heartfelt gratitude and appreciation" for the Justice Department review.
"The people we lost are so precious and dear that we can never forget them," Howard said. "Mr. Nahmias' decision ... represents a measure of closure and another step forward in the ongoing process of healing."
Henderson Hill, Nichols' lead attorney, said Nahmias' decision "honors the work of all 12 Fulton County jurors, and appropriately so. ... With this door closed, I am hopeful that the county and the state will rejoin the march towards ever-greater social justice."
Nichols' case cost millions, with the defense fees throttling the state public defender system's budget, affecting thousands of cases statewide. The jury's inability to reach a unanimous verdict on Nichols' sentence also sparked proposed legislation that would allow a judge to sentence a murderer to death if a jury deadlocked, with at least nine jurors having voted for death.
On March 11, 2005, Nichols, on trial for rape, overwhelmed a deputy and burst into a courtroom, killing Fulton Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and his court reporter Julie Brandau. While escaping, Nichols shot and killed Hoyt Teasley, another deputy outside the courthouse.
Nichols fled to Buckhead and killed Wilhelm. At the time, the federal agent was off duty, working on his home near Lenox Square mall.
Federal prosecutions of cases already tried in state court are allowed if a "substantially enhanced sentence" can be achieved.
Nichols, Nahmias said, was convicted on 54 counts and received multiple life-without-parole sentences.
If a federal case were mounted, prosecutors would face "significant evidentiary issues" that were not addressed in the state case. If those could be overcome, "a federal jury might well not return a unanimous death sentence, as occurred in the state trial," Nahmias said.
"In addition, there is considerable value in not disrupting the finality that the state case provided to the many victims, survivors of victims, other witnesses and the community," he said.
Nahmias called the Fulton County prosecution "skillful and aggressive" and noted it achieved a "commendable and severe result."
The U.S. attorney said its decision could be reconsidered if Nichols challenges his state sentence or if his security situation changes.

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