Courthouse Shooting Suspect to Be Tried at Scene

The trial of a man accused of killing four people in a shooting rampage that started at an Atlanta courthouse will be held in the same complex where the crime took place, a judge ruled Wednesday over the objections of the defense.

Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller's decision came after a hearing at which lawyers for Brian Nichols argued that the Fulton County Courthouse is a crime scene and that the Oct. 3 trial should be moved to another courthouse in the county.

Fuller cautioned that his decision could change if circumstances change. He did not elaborate.

He said the trial be held in a building attached by a walkway to the building where the March 11, 2005, shooting spree started.

Sheriff's Maj. Antonio Johnson, who is in charge of courthouse security, testified that if the trial were held at the complex, his deputies could keep the jurors away from the sections that are regarded as a crime scene. Those sections include the courtroom of a judge who was slain in the rampage.

All pretrial hearings in the case have been held in the same courtroom where the trial will be conducted.

Last year, Nichols was in the courthouse, facing trial on rape charges, when he allegedly overpowered a deputy, grabbed her gun and shot to death a judge and a court reporter. Nichols also is accused of killing a sheriff's deputy who chased him outside the courthouse, and a federal agent at a home a few miles away.

He surrendered the next day after allegedly taking a woman hostage in a suburban Atlanta apartment.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of Fuller's decision to allow the Fulton County District Attorney's Office to prosecute the case.

The defense had sought to remove the district attorney's office because of potential bias, saying some of the office staff was traumatized by the shootings in the courthouse, which contains the prosecutor's office.


Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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