Brian Nichols: Atlanta Courthouse Killer

Background and Case Developments

FBI agents escort murder suspect Brian Nichols from an FBI holding facility
FBI agents escort murder suspect Brian Nichols from an FBI holding facility in 2005. Davis Turner/Getty Images

On March 11, 2005, Nichols was on trial for rape at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta when he overpowered a female deputy, took her gun, and went into the courtroom where he trial was being held and shot the judge and a court reporter. Nichols is also charged with killing a sheriff's deputy who tried to stop his escape from the courthouse and shooting a federal agent at his home a few miles from the courthouse.

Nichols' escape set off one of the largest manhunts in Georgia history, which ended after he took Ashley Smith hostage in her apartment and she convinced him to let her leave and then called 9-1-1.

Major Case Developments

The case of Nichols took on many twists and turns, but its events ended with two major developments as described in the following details.

Nichols Avoids Death Penalty

Dec. 12, 2008

Brian Nichols, the convicted Atlanta Courthouse killer, avoided the death penalty when a jury deciding his fate deadlocked after four days of deliberation. The jury was split 9-3 in favor of giving Nichols the death penalty rather than life in prison.

Atlanta Courthouse Killer Found Guilty

Nov. 7, 2008
After deliberating for 12 hours, a jury found the Atlanta Courthouse killer guilty of murder and dozens of other charges in connection with his deadly escape from the Fulton County Courthouse on March 11, 2005. Brian Nichols was found guilty of all 54 charges after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

Previous Developments

The case also went through a number of key developments prior to the previously described events.

Ashley Smith Testifies Against Brian Nichols

Oct. 6, 2008

The woman who talked accused Atlanta Courthouse killer Brian Nichols into surrendering to police testified at his trial that she appealed to his religious beliefs while she was held captive by him in her apartment.

Courthouse Shooting Trial Underway

Sept. 22, 2008
After years of delays and nine weeks to select a jury of eight women and four men, the trial of accused Atlanta Courthouse shooter Brian Nichols got underway under high security Monday. Nichols has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for killing a judge, court reporter and sheriff's deputy at the Fulton County Courthouse and a federal agent later that day.

Jury Selection Begins

July 10, 2008
Jury selection has finally begun in the Atlanta Courthouse Shooting a day after Brian Nichols pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 54 counts, including the murders of four people. More than 600 witnesses are scheduled to testify in the high-profile trial which could last for months.

Mental Exam Ordered for Brian Nichols

June 12, 2008
A judge has ruled that prosecutors can have their own psychological expert examine Brian Nichols, who plans to claim he was insane when he shot his way out of an Atlanta courthouse in 2005.

Nichols Seeks New Judge Removed

April 23, 2008
Brian Nichols' defense team claims the judge should recuse himself because he was a friend of one of the victims.

Judge Retains Jury Pool

April 11, 2008
The new judge in the Atlanta Courthouse Shooting case has ruled that the jury selection process will begin again in July where it left off before being interrupted by the controversy over the funding for the defense. Superior Court Judge Jim Bodiford issued a ruling that jury selection would continue July 10 from the original jury pool of 3,500.

Courthouse Shooting Judge Steps Down

Jan. 30, 2008
The controversial judge in the Atlanta Courthouse shooting trial of Brian Nichols has stepped down after a magazine article quoted him saying, "everyone in the world knows he did it."

County Helps Fund Brian Nichols' Defense

Jan. 15, 2008
The death penalty trial of accused Atlanta Courthouse killer Brian Nichols could begin again as early as mid-March after the Fulton County Commission voted to spend $125,000 to help in his defense by paying for a psychiatric evaluation.

Trial Delayed Again

Nov. 16, 2007
For the fifth time, the murder trial of accused Atlanta Courthouse Killer Brian Nichols has been delayed due to a lack of funds for his defense. Sticking to his guns despite growing criticism, Judge Hilton Fuller ruled that he will not start the trial until there is more money provided to Nichols' defense team.

DA Tries to Force Start of Trial

Nov. 2, 2007
The Fulton County district attorney has filed a complaint with the Georgia Supreme Court in an effort to force the judge in the Atlanta Courthouse Shootings case to resume jury selection.

Trial Begins

Oct. 15, 2007
Security will be tight at the Fulton County courthouse this week as the trial of Brian Nichols begins in the same building he is accused of shooting his way out of almost three years ago.

Lack of Money an Issue

Feb. 12, 2007
The trial of Brian Nichols in the Atlanta courthouse shooting case may be delayed because the agency in charge of paying his court-appointed attorneys is out of money.

Trial Set to Begin

Jan. 11, 2007
Although there is absolutely no doubt about the guilt of the defendant, a long, drawn out and expensive trial is scheduled to begin in the same courthouse that also happens to be the scene of the crime.

Trial Delay Rejected

Dec. 22, 2006
Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller has rejected another defense motion that would have delayed the start of the trial of Brian Nichols.

Trial Relocation Sought

Jan 30, 2006
Attorneys for Brian Nichols have asked that his trial be moved to another courthouse, because the current one is the crime scene.

Hostage Ashley Smith Gave Nichols Meth

Sept. 28, 2005
Ashley Smith, the woman who helped authorities capture Atlanta Courthouse killer Brian Nichols, says in her new book "Unlikely Angel" that she talked with him about her faith and gave him methamphetamine during her seven-hour hostage ordeal.

Previous developments in the Atlanta Courthouse Shooting case:

Two Arrested for Murder of Smith's Husband

June 23, 2005
Four years after Daniel (Mack) Smith was stabbed to death at an August, Georgia apartment complex, two men have been indicted and arrested for the stabbing death of the husband of Ashley Smith, the woman who convinced the Atlanta courthouse killer to turn himself into police.

Death Penalty Sought for Nichols

May 5, 2005
The Fulton County district attorney will seek the death penalty for the man accused of shooting his way out of an Atlanta courthouse, leaving four people dead and setting off the largest manhunt in Georgia history.

Ashley Smith Collects $70,000 Reward

March 24, 2005
Ashley Smith was given $70,000 in reward money for helping authorities capture courthouse shooter Brian Nichols.

Hostage: "God Brought Him to My Door"

March 14, 2005
Ashley Smith, the 26-year-old hostage who notified police that the Atlanta Courthouse Killer wanted to turned himself in, read to Brian Nichols from "The Purpose Driven Life," shared her personal faith, and prayed with him for more than seven hours in her Duluth, Georgia apartment.

Courthouse Killer Waves "White Flag" to Surrender

March 12, 2005
Brian Nichols, the man who killed three people in a Fulton County Courtroom Friday, waved a white flag to surrender to authorities after they surrounded a Metro Atlanta Area apartment that belonged to a woman who managed to call 911.

Courthouse Killer Gives Cops the Slip

March 11, 2005
The manhunt for an Atlanta man who killed three people at the Fulton County Courthouse Friday morning became a lot more complicated when the vehicle the suspect was thought to be driving was found 14 hours later on a lower deck of the same parking from which it was supposedly stolen.

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "Brian Nichols: Atlanta Courthouse Killer." ThoughtCo, Jul. 5, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, July 5). Brian Nichols: Atlanta Courthouse Killer. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Brian Nichols: Atlanta Courthouse Killer." ThoughtCo. (accessed August 2, 2021).