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This Day in Georgia History

March 11, 2005

Atlanta Courthouse Shootings

Superior court judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau were shot and killed in an Atlanta courtroom by Brian Nichols. On trial for rape, Nichols overpowered a deputy, took her gun, and entered the courtroom firing. He then escaped outside, shot and killed a Sgt. Hoydt Teasley, and went on the run. He eventually killed David Wilhelm, a U.S. customs agent, and took a young woman hostage in Duluth. Nichols was arrested for the crimes the following day. The woman he had taken hostage, Ashley Smith, had talked to him and calmed him during the night, and eventually he let her go. Smith then called the police, who surrounded her apartment prompting Nichols to surrender. After many delays, Nichols’ case finally went to trial in 2008. Despite his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, he was convicted of 54 different counts, including four counts of first-degree murder. The jury was deadlocked over sentencing Nichols to death, so the judge sentenced Nichols to consecutive terms of life without parole for each of the four murders, plus hundreds of years in prison for the other 50 counts.