The case of

Judge Rowland Barnes (64), Julie Ann Brandau (46), Hoyt Teasley (43), David Wilhelm (40),

Victim

Judge Rowland Barnes (64), Julie Ann Brandau (46), Hoyt Teasley (43), David Wilhelm (40),

Victim Race
Victim Date of Birth

1971-12-10

Victim Age
Date Reported
Date of Death

2005-03-11

Case Status
Incident Location

Fulton County Courthouse, Atlanta, Georgia

Body Location

Fulton County Courthouse, Atlanta, Georgia

Date of Conviction

2005-03-11

Body Discovered Date
Murderer

Brian Nichols

Who is Brian Nichols?

Brian Gene Nichols was born in 1971 in Baltimore, Maryland, to a somewhat middle-class family. He was the younger of two boys, his brother Mark Nichols is four years older than him. He attended the Cardinal Gibbons school, an all-male catholic school, before later going to college at the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania between 1989 and 1990. He was known to play football and also for getting into trouble regularly.

He soon dropped out of college and moved to Georgia, where he started working for Hewlett-Packard as a UNIX system engineer.

Between 1996 and 1999, Brian was on probation for a felony drug charge in Cobb County, Georgia, after being arrested with a small amount of marijuana.

In the summer of 2004, he was charged with the rape, kidnapping and assault of his former girlfriend after discovering that she was seeing a minister from the church they both attended. The resulting trial for the rape charge actually ended in a hung jury with at least eight jurors in favor of a not guilty verdict. This meant that a retrial was necessary and was due to take place on 11th March 2005

Killing Spree

While being escorted to Fulham County Courthouse for the retrial of his rape, kidnapping, and assault charges, Nichols attacks and overpowers sheriff’s deputy Cynthia Hall while she is removing his handcuffs. After an approximately 3-minute-long struggle ending with Cynthia Hall in a coma, all caught on surveillance footage, he manages to take the key to a lock box, where her Glock service pistol is stored. He then changes into civilian clothes, crosses a sky bridge to the next building, and enters Judge Rowland Barnes’ private chambers.

On his way to the chambers, he encounters case managers Susan Christy and Gina Clarke Thomas and attorney David Allman, who were held at gunpoint while he demanded directions to Barnes’ location. He tears out the phone lines in the chambers and takes the three hostages. At this time Sergeant Grantley White also entered the courtroom and attempted to disarm Nichols. When he failed, he was also taken hostage and forced to handcuff the others.

After the failed attempt, Nichols takes the deputy’s gun and progresses into the courtroom from behind the bench, and fires a single shot into Judge Barnes’ head. He then shoots and kills court reporter Julie Ann Brandau.

After the shooting, he descends the stairwell and leaves through an emergency exit, triggering the emergency alarm. During the escape on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, witnesses see him fire multiple shots at another Sheriff’s Deputy, Hoyt Teasley.

Escape and Capture

Brian Nichols initially steals a dark SUV, but crashes through the gate of a parking date after driving fewer than three blocks. He then steals a truck at gunpoint before driving about six blocks away where he stole another car at gunpoint.

After several carjackings, a reward of $65,000 was announced for the information that would lead to Nichols’s arrest. Any attempts to capture him were largely unsuccessful. He reportedly attempted to kidnap a young woman during this time, only fleeing once he heard her calling 9 1 1.

Later the same day, ICE special agent David G Wilhelm is shot dead in his home, with his badge, gun, and pickup truck stolen; it is believed Nichols is responsible for this shooting death.

Around 2:30 am on 12th March, Ashley Smith comes home to her apartment in Duluth after running errands. Nichols forces his way in and at gunpoint, binds her hands and feet. Smith explains that they spent hours talking of religion and family, as she attempted to get Nichols to give himself up and let her go. Eventually, relaxing Nichols enough to untie her.

At around 10 am Nichols allowed Ashley Smith to leave to visit her daughter, he tells her that he will stay a few days at her place. This is when Smith can call 9 1 1 and inform them that Nichols was at her apartment in Duluth, Georgia. Within minutes a SWAT team converges on the building in question and takes him into custody after Nichols surrenders by waving a white t-shirt.

Following his arrest, Brian Nichols is taken to a Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Decatur, Georgia, before being transferred to an Atlanta Police Station where he confessed to his crimes in detail.

Trial and Conviction

On 5th May 2005, Nichols was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury on 54 separate counts. These included: murder, felony murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, theft, carjacking, and escape from authorities. He initially pleaded not guilty, with his defense team wanting to defend him based on mental health.

However, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard made it clear that he would be seeking the death penalty. The trial was postponed as Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller thought it was important due to “fundamental fairness” to find new accommodation for the trail, as it was due to take place in the same place the murders were committed.

In October 2006, Nichols was moved to DeKalb County Jail after another planned escape that did not progress any further than the planning stage.

On September 22nd, 2008 in the Atlanta Municipal Court, the trial began. Nichols pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. During the trial the prosecution attempted to discredit Nichols’ claims of mental instability. Witnesses testified that he showed no signs of mental illness during his previous rape trial. His defense stated that he had previously shown signs of depression and suicidal ideations.

After 12-hour jury deliberation, Brian Nichols was found guilty of all 54 counts on 7th November 2008.

He was sentenced to multiple life sentences with no chance for parole. He was, however, spared multiple death sentences, as the jury failed to come to a unanimous decision on the death penalty.

He is currently incarcerated in Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison.

Frequently asked questions

Did Brian Nichols get the death penalty?

Nichols was spared multiple death sentences as the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision, which is a requirement in Georgia law.

Is Brian Nichols in solitary confinement?

Nichols is serving life in prison in a high-max unit in Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, which is basically like a solitary confinement, due to his previous very violent escape.

Subscribe TO OUR WEEKLY
TRUE CRIME

NEWSLETTER