DEADLOCKED JURY WILL MEAN LIFE FOR KILLER By Steve Visser, Jeffry Scott The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Saturday, December 13, 2008
Brian Nichols will at most spend the rest of his life in prison, spared a death sentence by hopelessly deadlocked Fulton County jurors who had convicted him for the March 11, 2005, courthouse shootings.
Judge James Bodiford has decided Saturday to give Nichols life with no possibility of parole.The panel’s 9-3 vote split, with the majority in favor of Nichols dying by injection for killing four people (including Judge Rowland Barnes) in the rampage that terrorized Atlanta, shook Georgia’s judicial system, cost taxpayers millions of dollars and left the death penalty in doubt in Fulton County.
"I had known Judge Rowland Barnes for a couple of years in the mid 1990's when I lived in Panama City Fl and ran the WBI Inc Private Detective Agency there, what has happened here in Atlanta is a travesty of the Justice system, the Jury really tanks on this one, of all the people who commit and are convicted of murder, Brian Nichols deserves to die the most" !
It was not known if the three holdouts included any of the three jurors who indicated before they were chosen for the case that they had misgivings about the death penalty. None of the jurors would talk publicly before leaving the courthouse.
Jurors wrestled with the punishment issue for three days, saying they were locked Thursday in the death-penalty impasse. Bodiford gave them two extra hours Friday night for a last-ditch effort to reach the unanimity Georgia law requires for a death sentence.
Brian Nichols did not receive the death penalty, now how is the Georgia Supreme Court going to allow any other death penalty to stand that involves the murder of a police officer or court official?” Mears asked. “It is not the fault of the prosecutor. He is asking for the death penalty. He just can’t get the jury to agree with him.”
Howard’s prosecutors, who also refused any comment, had insisted that Nichols is still dangerous and a continuing threat to society. They said he had threatened to kill Howard in revenge, if given another chance, in a controversial audio tape of a jailhouse phone conversation between Nichols and his brother, Mark Nichols. Admitting he killed four people, Nichols says on the tape that “I’d do it again” indicating a lack of remorse —- with the only difference being that he would shoot victims on the prosecutors’ floor of the courthouse the next time.
The jury sparked a flurry of courtroom drama on Thursday by asking to rehear that tape in its entirety. With defense lawyers calling it “highly prejudicial,” Bodiford said they could hear only the portion admitted into evidence during the trial itself, if they submitted the request to him in writing.
The request never came and the panel continued at an impasse beyond 30 hours. When their foreman reported their plight Friday afternoon, defense lawyers told Bodiford he had a duty to declare the jury hung and impose a life sentence.
The immovable 9-3 split was not what the family and friends of Nichols’ victims wanted to hear. Some bowed their heads and expressed disagreement. A few broke down completely. Christina Greenway, daughter of slain court reporter Julie Ann Brandau, wiped tears with court-supplied tissues as her husband tried his best to comfort her.
Claudia Barnes, widow of Judge Rowland Barnes, stared stoically ahead —- as she has for the three-month trial. Barnes was the presiding judge at Nichols’ trial for raping a longtime girlfriend, the case that triggered his escape and rampage.
The jury of six black women, two white women, two black men, one white man and one Asian man convicted Nichols on Nov. 7 of killing Barnes, Brandau, sheriff’s deputy Hoyt Teasley and U.S. Customs agent David Wilhelm.
One question that is unknown is whether Nichols will be turned over to federal authorities to serve his sentence at the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., because he is an escape risk and because he was convicted of killing a federal officer. At Florence, Nichols likely would be under 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a solitary cell with an hour granted for solitary exercise.
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