Jury deadlocked in Brian Nichols case
Judge sentence Brian Nichols to life in prison, without parole. Did the Slave Master made me do it defense worked?
By Noble Johns
ATLANTA, Georgia (BNW) I have heard of the Twinkie defense, the temporary insanity defense, the abused wife defense and the blame society for your problems defense, but I have never heard of the blame the old slave master defense for the reason to kill four people. That gives new meaning to playing the race card; Brian Nichols played the race care from the bottom of the deck, and Niggers on the jury believed him.
Jurors in the Brian Nichols trial were ordered Thursday to resume deliberating his punishment, despite their assertion earlier in the day that they were unable to reach a unanimous agreement. After further deliberations, the jury was still split when the judge polled the jury again.
If seven or more jurors are in favor of the death penalty or a life sentence without parole, the judge can sentence Nichols to life without parole. If the majority are in favor of a life sentence with the possibility of parole, the judge can pass only that sentence.
Brian Nichols was found guilty of murdering four people in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2005. Superior Court Judge James Bodiford ordered the deliberations to continue Thursday afternoon, but with no hope of breaking the stalemate, Bodiford had to call a mistrial and sentence Nichols to life in prison, without parole.
Wanting blood from Blacks like always, prosecutors have been seeking the death penalty for Nichols, 36, who was convicted of killing a judge and a court reporter in the Fulton County Courthouse, where he was being tried for rape.
It didnt have anything to do with insanity or delusion, Prosecutor Clint Rucker told jurors when asking them to reject Nichols defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. The defendant was angry and he was frustrated. He is cold-blooded. He is vicious. He is remorseless. And he is extremely, extremely dangerous.
Nichols, 36, contends his delusion of leading a slave revolt against an unjust justice system caused him to escape from custody on March 11, 2005 by viciously beating his guard, taking her gun and killing the judge who was presiding over his rape trial and his court reporter.
Nichols, at the time, was facing his second trial in the rape case. The first jury had not been able to decide whether he had raped his former girlfriend.
Mark Cunningham, a defense psychologist, contends Nichols was deluded and believed he was leading the revolt when he fled the Fulton County Courthouse, shot and killed a pursuing deputy, carjacked and assaulted several people and killed an off-duty federal agent that night.
Rucker reminded jurors that Nichols shot both Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes whom Nichols called the slave master in his confession to police and Julie Ann Brandau, the court reporter. The prosecutor focused on Brandau to attack Nichols claim that delusions were to blame.
When you ask this defendant, Why did you shoot the court reporter? She wasnt a slave master he really doesnt have any answer, Rucker said. This delusional compulsion story has so many holes, it looks like a piece of cheese.
In addition to Barnes and Brandau, Nichols is accused of killing Sheriffs Deputy Sgt. Hoyt Teasley and David Wilhelm, a U.S. Customs agent. He also confessed to beating Deputy Cynthia Hall, who was left brain-damaged.
Defense lawyer Josh Moore aimed his rhetoric at Rucker, claiming the prosecutor was trying to cloud the issue of mental health and undermine Nichols claim by misrepresenting delusional-compulsion illness, which waxes and wanes.
This is a case about a broken mind, Moore told jurors. The just verdict in this case is not guilty by reason of insanity. I say the just verdict because it will not be an easy verdict.
Jurors are expected to deliberate and sentence Nichols to death. To find Nichols not guilty, they would have to decide he couldnt tell right from wrong.
Moore told the jury it also had the option of finding guilty but mentally ill, which would allow Nichols to get treatment in prison.
Moore noted that Nichols lawyer in the rape trial believed that Nichols was mentally ill, although not legally insane. Moore also cited testimony by the former girlfriend that she had never seen such bizarre behavior by Nichols in their seven-year relationship before he took her prisoner and raped her.
Even the psychiatrist who testified for prosecutors, Dr. Robert Phillips, said Nichols was mentally ill although he didnt diagnose him as delusional.
Rucker contended Nichols fabricated stories to explain his confrontations but riddled them with inconsistencies. Nichols called Barnes both a slave master and a good man and fair judge in his statement to police. Nichols claims he shot Teasley because the deputy was an assistant to the slave master, Rucker said.
That is a bunch of bull, Rucker told the majority African-American jury. Its just offensive for this man to come in here, this court of law, trying to avoid responsibility by convincing you all that he was a slave.
Rucker contended Cunningham, the defense psychologist, as an advocate who forced facts to fit his testimony that Nichols suffered from a delusional compulsion. Rucker used Nichols own words against him by reading letters in which Nichols outlined his plans to fool authorities if he escaped or jurors if went to trial.
My goal is a not guilty verdict, Rucker read from one of Nichols letters to a girlfriend. All I need is the right people on the jury and I can go home.
The prosecutor looked at the jurors.
Dr. Cunningham said Nichols could appear normally to outsiders, but was overcome by his delusion on March 11th. The defense expert says Nichols believed he was a "slave" and Judge Rowland Barnes was the slave master. Dr. Cunningham told jurors court reporter Julie Brandau was a secondary target because she worked for the judge.
Nichols also gave this explanation to Atlanta police when interviewed March 12 about the killings. The murder suspect described Sgt. Hoyt Teasley as being an agent of the system who he was forced to shoot because Teasley pursued him. Nichols and the psychologist explained the four victim as being a "white" person who would return him to the slave system by putting him back in jail.
Nichol's mother, Claritha Nichols, also testified for the defense and described her son as a "gentleman". She says his behavior started changing when she took an assignment in Tanzania, Africa in January of 2005. She said Brian was actively involved in the church prior to 2005.
Nichols told a story of being enslaved, and deciding on March 11, 2005 to declare war on the US government.
Certain words stood out in his confession. He can be heard using military lingo, calling victims targets. He didn't say he killed them; he said several times he spared them. Is this the confession of a sane man or a crazy man? The jury will have to decide.
"I consider myself to be a slave rebelling against his master," Nichols said.
Nichols described himself as a "captured prisoner of war," and said he feels justified by his actions.
"As a soldier, I don't feel I committed any war crimes," Nichols said.
He said he made a decision to rebel during his second rape trial when it looked like he was going to be convicted. He said he felt like he was being sold into slavery, so he declared war.
"I saw Judge Barnes as a master," he said.
"And when you say master are you talking about --" said the investigator questioning him.
"I'm referring to the slave master," Nichols replied.
Nichols revealed his plan, saying he knew the cameras throughout the courthouse were not well monitored. He described the beating of Deputy Cynthia Hall that left her permanently brain damaged.
"I had to hit her a couple of times," he said. "And I'm glad she's going to pull through."
He also talked about the people he didn't kill.
"I liked Sergeant White," he said. "I felt that as a soldier I had the discretion as to who I targeted."
Nichols described the shootings of Judge Barnes and Julie Brandau in cold military terms.
"I engaged the target which was Rowland Barnes, and I engaged the secondary target, which was court stenographer," Nichols said.
Portions of the confession seemed odd such as watching Nichols eat his McDonald's lunch and make small talk with another officer, seeming interested in his media coverage.
"I heard Geraldo (Rivera) was here," he said.
Hearing Nichols speak for the first time, he seems soft-spoken, well-mannered, polite. The confession stands in stark contrast to the brutal acts committed by the man just one day before.
"I do have great remorse. I didn't enjoy killing anyone," said Nichols. "You know I wish I could take it back."
At one point in the confession, Nichols said Judge Barnes was a good, fair judge. He even said he had a good heart, but he was a symbol of the institution of slavery. Nichols gave his condolences to Barnes' family and said his death was honorable. Barnes' wife looked disgusted.
Brian Nichols is accused of shooting and killing Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau, Fulton County Sheriffs Deputy Hoyt Teasley, and federal agent David Wilhelm in a shooting rampage that began at the Fulton County Courthouse on March 11, 2007. Nichols was on a trial for a rape conviction when the shooting took place.
After the shooting, Nichols was arrested the next day in Gwinnett County at the apartment of Ashley Smith. Authorities credit Smith with persuading Nichols to turn himself in to authorities peacefully.
Nichols made his first court appearance on March 15 at the Fulton County Jail, and he attended his first pre-trial hearing a month later. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard formally indicted Nichols on May 10, 2005 and sought the death penalty. The jury returned with a 54-count indictment against Nichols.
I ask you again, Are you the right people? Rucker asked.I dont
He also was convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy outside the courthouse and a federal agent in northern Atlanta. He was taken into custody 26 hours after his escape, in neighboring Gwinnett County, where he held a woman hostage in her apartment.
Prosecutor Clint Rucker called Monday for Nichols to be sentenced to death on the 54 counts.
"If you give him life and not death, especially given everything he's done, he will have nothing to lose and everything to gain, because he is not finished yet," Rucker told the jury. "He did it once, and he will do it again. He is conniving, he is cold-blooded, he is vicious, and he is remorseless, and he is extremely, extremely dangerous."
The defense said Nichols, who confessed to the killings, suffered from a mental disorder.
During the penalty phase of Nichols' trial, jurors heard emotional testimony from relatives of the shooting victims.
They also heard about Nichols' middle-class childhood in Baltimore, Maryland, his relationship with the woman who accused him of raping her and his thwarted attempts to escape from jail as he awaited trial.
In the nearly two years since the jurors were called to hear the case, more than 1,000 pieces of evidence have been submitted, and more than 140 witnesses have testified.
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