• 50°

Trial begins in deadly Atlanta courthouse shooting

ATLANTA (AP) ó The man accused of a courthouse shooting rampage that left four people dead pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity Thursday as his trial began amid high security, more than three years after prosecutors say he confessed to the killings.
Defense attorney Henderson Hill entered the plea for Brian Nichols a day after filing a motion claiming Nichols was insane and couldn’t tell “right from wrong” during the killings.
Even Nichols’ defense team has conceded he killed a judge, court reporter and sheriff’s deputy at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta on March 11, 2005, and Rowan native David Wilhelm, a federal agent, later that day.
But the trial has faced a series of complications that have alternately astonished and outraged a community trying to close the books on the shootings that turned Fulton County’s seat of justice into a crime scene.
Lawmakers outraged at a state-funded defense bill of at least $1.8 million have threatened to cut more funding. Nichols has been accused of plotting an escape. Defense attorneys claim a prosecutor committed crimes of her own. And the district attorney sued the presiding judge, who later stepped down.
And there’s still uncertainty about where the trial will be held. Jury selection began in the same courthouse as the shootings, but defense attorneys have long urged that the case be heard in another building in the county out of fairness to their client.
The new judge, James Bodiford, said Thursday he was moving the trial to another location within the next 10 days but did not specify where. A possible location is the Atlanta Municipal Court, which handles traffic cases.
Bodiford, who took over the case in February, has vowed to keep the case on track, rebuffing an attempt by Nichols’ attorneys Thursday to delay the case further.
“One thing I must do in this case is justice,” Bodiford said. “But secondly I must be efficient, if I can.”
Attorneys began screening the first batch of dozens of potential jurors Thursday in hopes of finding a pool of 100 qualified jurors. From there, 18 jurors will be selected ó 12 jurors and six alternates.
Legal experts say finding a fair jury to decide one of the most notorious cases in modern Atlanta history could be the trickiest task, and the first pool seemed to reinforce the dilemma. Eleven of the 16 residents raised their hands when asked if they’ve already formed an opinion about the case.
The jurors watched a 37-minute video describing the 54 counts against Nichols, who sat silently with his eyes downcast as it was played. About a dozen deputies and security officers in khaki vests roamed the courtroom, and each visitor was first screened by a deputy waving a metal detector.
The trial could last for months. As many as 600 witnesses could be called, and written evidence runs to the thousands of pages.
Prosecutors say Nichols was being escorted to a courtroom in the Fulton County Courthouse when he beat a deputy guarding him, stole her gun and went on a shooting spree.
Nichols, who was on trial on a rape charge, is accused of shooting Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Ann Brandau in the courthouse and sheriff’s Deputy Hoyt Teasley outside the courthouse. A fourth victim, federal agent David Wilhelm, was killed at a north Atlanta home he was renovating later in the day.

Comments

Comments closed.

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

Nation/World

Sikh community calls for gun reforms after FedEx shooting

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight

Crime

Gastonia man sentenced for crash into restaurant that killed his daughter, daughter-in-law

Nation/World

Some call for charges after video of police shooting 13-year-old in Chicago

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 5.2% in March

Coronavirus

NASCAR approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

News

Judge rejects Cherokee challenge against new casino in Kings Mountain

Elections

Jackson tops NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Local

Kiwanis Pancake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity

Coronavirus

Rowan remains in state’s middle, yellow tier for COVID-19 community spread