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Manhunt Underway In Atlanta For Courthouse Killer

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Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, a court reporter and sheriff's deputy were killed in open court, and another person was wounded. The downtown area in Atlanta has been shutdown as police conduct a manhunt for the suspected killer Brian Nichols (inset). Follow the updates on the story here.

Jeff Quinton is live-blogging the story.

Update: Unbelievable! Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said during a news conference that extra had been requested for today after deputies found a homemade metal weapon in Nichols's shoe yesterday. Having already been caught attempting to bring a weapon into court, why wasn't Nichols in shackles today?

CAUGHT! Jeff Quinton, who's been live blogging the story, links to the initial AP report and notes that Nichols is a suspect in another murder early this morning.


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Comments (16)

Irrelevant, I know, but tha... (Below threshold)

Irrelevant, I know, but that judge really looks like Rob Reiner.

Boy, I bet those people did... (Below threshold)
julie:

Boy, I bet those people didn't wake up this morning prepared for it to to be the last day of their lives. I'm really sorry this happened.

I wonder if Rowland Barnes ... (Below threshold)
John S.:

I wonder if Rowland Barnes is the same judge that let this animal out on bond last week.

Since the news story says h... (Below threshold)
julie:

Since the news story says he was being held without bond since his arrest last August, I doubt it.

I hate the media -- court f... (Below threshold)
James:

I hate the media -- court full of witnesses, and they still have to call him the "suspected" killer. Jesus.

How did this guy make it ou... (Below threshold)
Red:

How did this guy make it out of Fulton Superior Court without being tackled. Not like this is a small backwoods court house. That's almost hard to believe with so many gun shots fired.

The judge requested extra s... (Below threshold)
julie:

The judge requested extra security and didn't get it. The judge should have ordered the guy not to be brought out if it wasn't secure. The deputy shd have refused to bring him to court. The prosecutor and defense atty and any other staff shd have bitched, too.

The facts released so far don't make sense. When the jury is going to come in, the bailiff will unhandcuff the defendant. They can leave leg shackles on if the jury can't see them. I'm not sure if he was brought into court and the bailiff started removing the restraints, or, did he manage to get the gun and then her key? I'm not sure why she would remove the restraints without additional help there, either. Like most tragedies, there seems to be enough blame to go around.

They use to use those stun belts. But, when you had to actually use it on a guy, it was cruel and unusual, so out they went.

Oh, well. According to Jed and lamont, it's all a plot by the white man to keep the black man down.

Red: Maybe, people were reluctant to tackle him because he had a gun and already shot four people. Normally, there is an alarm you can set off in a courtroom. But, maybe no one in the courtroom was left alive to use it.

The security in the courtho... (Below threshold)
-S-:

The security in the courthouse is described as far too casual -- the guy's a violent offender, should have been in cuffs, at least.

Which does nothing to ease the pain of those who have now lost their lives to this murderer, I realize. I agree that the media now describing the murderer as "the alleged..." is ridiculous, even seems almost helpful to criminal behavior, but the security in that courthouse seems to be of issue (d'oh). The judiciary is described well and as being quite social and that's part of the problem. You need a firm wall to separate most people from some people and anyone in a courtroom/house itself with a history of violent crime (and many without) should be treated with distance. It's not a place where happy people go to be friendly with other happy people about happy circumstances, unfortunately. Unfortunately, I write, because that's the reality of the environment: not a place where happiness abounds, nor a focal point to share in happiness, but quite the contrary. That the judiciary and courthouse personnel/employees are so available to "the accused" is a problem.

Bill Cosby was right.... (Below threshold)

Bill Cosby was right.

This incident should be lai... (Below threshold)
Jim:

This incident should be laid at the feet of the politically correct crowd. Why was this guy being escorted by a female officer who was 5 feet tall? I may be wrong, but if this scumbag were being escorted by a male officer who was 6 feet tall, the slug would probaby not have gotten the officer's gun. In fact, perhaps the person who'd be laying dead would have been the scumbag instead of a judge, a court officer or a court reporter.

Jim: I wouldn't assume that... (Below threshold)
julie:

Jim: I wouldn't assume that when there are two equally sized men, the law enforcement officer is going to win. The security practises at that courthouse were non-existant.

I'm a little glad I'm not t... (Below threshold)

I'm a little glad I'm not the first one to bring this point up (thanks, Jim), so maybe I won't take the "sexist" sledgehammer all alone--but I questioned the wisdom of putting a female officer in the place of overseeing a large male defendant, accused of rape and sodomy (crimes against women). Understand that I'm not saying that because the officer was female that she was necessarily a "weaker" or "more vulnerable" target, but rather that she would be more easily percieved that way by a rapist. Furthermore, rapists frequently feel that it was their "right" as a man to perform the acts (on a woman) of which they were accused. He would see the act of placing him under the control of a woman as an insult to his "manhood", and in that vein, may have actually precipitated the event.

Again, I'm not saying that the male officer would have won a physical challenge with the perp, but the perp may have not so readily attacked the male officer.

Either way, I sincerely hope this scumbag insists on a "you'll never take me alive" stand when the authorities catch up to him.

What's disturbing is that this perp should have been serving time for a rape conviction when this happened. The jury in that original trial (at least those who insisted upon his innocence, hanging the jury), has blood on its hands now.

"I'm a little glad I'm not ... (Below threshold)

"I'm a little glad I'm not the first one to bring this point up (thanks, Jim), so maybe I won't take the 'sexist' sledgehammer all alone--but I questioned the wisdom of putting a female officer in the place of overseeing a large male defendant, accused of rape and sodomy (crimes against women). Understand that I'm not saying that because the officer was female that she was necessarily a 'weaker' or 'more vulnerable' target, but rather that she would be more easily percieved that way by a rapist."

Madness. Bo Diddly is afraid of being accused of "sexism" for stating the most obvious fact in the world. Four innocent people are dead, because of feminism. Understand that I AM saying that because the officer was female that she was necessarily a 'weaker' or 'more vulnerable' target! Perception had nothing to do with it. Whoever assigned a lady cop to guard a violent male suspect, should be run out of law enforcement, and made a poster boy for pc madness.

Brian Nichols, Bart Ross, P... (Below threshold)

Brian Nichols, Bart Ross, Perceived Unfairness (Courts Under Attack...)

Taking a life is wrong!

Fighting the justice system outside of its contour isn’t rational. Freedom has provided civil liberties when used correctly removes insurmountable barriers such as segregation, discrimination and the like. Although many Americans have formed certain perceptions about the judiciary that represents an overall lack of trust, one must prove their argument within the structure provided and advocate change through civilized conduct. There are many methods of mentally or physically withdrawing from a hostile situation. The most common, attribute racist behavior to ignorance and chose to educate as a response to discrimination, which can give a sense of empowerment.

A spate of violence in the judicial system has many uneasy and on edge. Security at federal, state, and local courts across the country has been increased in the wake of the shooting of three people in Atlanta (Judge Rowland Barnes, his court reporter and a Fulton County deputy) today and last week’s killings of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow’s husband and mother in Chicago.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, courthouses today are already secured by electronic surveillance systems, armed security officers, and metal detectors and scanning devices at every public entrance. In short, Judges are often the target of threats from defendants or litigants. They worry that their addresses and other personal information are easily accessible using the Internet and public records. And, there are trials that have the potential for additional security concerns.

In Chicago, police concluded that 57-year-old Bart Ross, a Poland immigrant, harbored a grudge against Judge Lefkow because she dismissed his malpractice lawsuit. In Atlanta, observers say a second rape trial was going badly for 33-year-old Brian Nichols, an African-American. It was his second trial in as many weeks. The first ended in a mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict (8 to 4 in favor of acquittal).

Public confidence plays a significant role in the ability of courts to perform their function effectively. Courts must rely for enforcement of their decisions on retaining sufficient respect from individual citizens so that the vast majority will comply voluntarily. Perceptions influence, even shape, behavior. Both Bart Ross and Brian Nichols appear to have expressed a concern about possible unfairness. Note, more than one-third of all Georgians see African Americans as receiving worst treatment than others by the court system. See “Essay: Race and the Georgia Courts: Implications of the Georgia Public Trust and Confidence Survey for Batson v. Kentucky and its Progeny,” 37 Ga. L. Rev. 1021.

In fact, there are twenty years of surveys (1978 to 1998), that identify positive and negative images of the judiciary recurred with varying degrees of force-fulness across the nation. See David B. Rottman’s, “On Public Trusts and Confidence: Does Experience with the Courts Promote or Diminish It?” Negative images centered on perceived inaccessibility, unfairness in the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, and lack of concern about the problems of ordinary people. There is also a concern that the courts are biased in favor of the wealthy and corporations - political considerations exerted an undue influence on the judiciary.

Nonetheless, improving public trust and confidence of the courts is fundamental and likely to be the best defense against the emotional reaction of losing a legal case. As early as 1988, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, William H. Rehnquist, detailed the extent, almost since the inception of our system of government, that the courts require the public’s trust and confidence. See “The Supreme Court: The First Hundred Years Were the Hardest,” 42 U. Miami L. Rev. 475, 477 (1988).

Justice Rehnquist provided the following example:

“When former Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, an appointee of President George Washington, fell ill in December 1800, president John Adams turned to John Jay asking him to return to that position (Jay having served as the first Chief Justice). But, John Jay refused the appointment writing ‘The Court, labored under a [judicial] system so defective that amongst its other problems, it did not possess the public confidence and respect which as the last resort of the justice of the nation, it should....’”

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her address to the National Conference on Public Trust and Confidence in the Justice System (July 1999) has expressed a similar concern:

“[i]n the lasts analysis, it is the public we serve, and we do care what the public thinks of us.”

But, prior to a 1999 study sponsored by the National Center for State Courts and the Hearst Corporation, “How the Public Views the State Courts” there was no systematic body of evidence that could document the extent to which and the ways in which perceptions of the court differ across social groups.

The 1999 survey findings reveal stark differences in how minority groups view the judicial system. African Americans consistently display a more negative view of the courts and less trust and confidence in the judicial system than do White/Non-Hispanics or Hispanics. That is, as a general matter, blacks express low levels of confidence in the courts, lower than other groups.

Minority groups perceive themselves as treated worse by the judicial systems because: (1) court personnel aren’t helpful and courteous; (2) most juries are not representative of the community; (3) courts fail to make reasonable efforts to ensure that individuals have adequate attorney representation; (4) judges are generally dishonest in deciding cases; and (5) courts are just “out-of-touch” with what’s going on in their communities.

Interestingly, Caucasians appear to either not understand or discount the perceptions of minority group members about the fairness of the court process.

A perception that money (court costs) matters in the treatment one receives from the courts is also an important component of the court’s public image. Nearly all respondents (87 percent) believed that having a lawyer contributed “a lot” to the high cost of going to court. More than half the respondents believed that the slow pace of justice, the complexity of the law, and the expenditure of personal time (e.g. missing work) additionally contributed “a lot” to the cost of going to court. Most distressing, all of groups said courts handle cases in a poor manner. Family relations cases and juvenile delinquency cases, in particular, are said to fare worst.

In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that a government lawyer prosecuting an African American criminal defendant violates the Equal Protection Clause if the prosecutor uses peremptory challenges for the purposes of excluding African Americans from the jury. The decision was premised in part on a desire to bolster public confidence in the fairness of the court system.

The Batson principle has been extended in a series of subsequent decisions, so that the prohibition on racially discriminatory peremptory challenges now extends to all trial attorneys, regardless of the nature of the case or the identity of the client. See Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42 (1992); Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991); Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400 (1991). In Powers v. Ohio, the Court held a jury “acts as a vital check against the wrongful exercise of power by the State and its prosecutors,” and that racial discrimination in jury selection “damages both the fact and the perception of this guarantee.”

While Batson has not produced a general public consensus that all races receive equal treatment in the court system, that does not necessarily mean the decision has been completely ineffective, or that it is somehow fundamentally misguided. By striking at the use of racial stereotypes as the basis for peremptory challenges, one expected outcome of the Batson decision would be to increase the number of minorities serving on juries. Such an outcome could play a potentially significant role in improving public confidence in the court system. Data from the Georgia survey (Essay: Race and the Georgia Courts: Implications of the Georgia Public Trust and Confidence Survey for Batson v. Kentucky and its Progeny,” 37 Ga. L. Rev. 1021) suggests that, in certain respects, those who have served as jurors tend to have greater trust in the court system than other citizens, and this hold true when minority jurors are examined.

Okay, "boys" -- I'll take y... (Below threshold)
julie:

Okay, "boys" -- I'll take you on:

1. He falsely imprisoned and raped his ex-girlfriend for dumping him after he got another woman pregnant. I would not call him a sexual predator. He falls more into the mean son of a bitch sociopath category.

2. This guy was planning an escape for a while. His best opportunity would be from the courthouse, during his retrial, and not the county jail. He made and hid two shanks and was caught with them at the courthouse.

He did not escape after shooting the first deputy. Instead, he walked down to the courtroom just so he could murder the judge and court reporter. His urge to murder, apparantly, was stronger than his urge to escape.

So, a guy who risked his escape in order to murder people would be more than willing to take on one or more male officers if they had been present instead of the female deputy.

And don't tell me he wouldn't have been able to seize a weapon if it was a male deputy. God knows that has happen enough times before.

It was exciting to follow t... (Below threshold)
Palmateer:

It was exciting to follow the manhunt coverage on cable news late Saturday morning.

Turns out Heraldo Rivera outscooped CNN, even though his rivals should have had more resources in a region so close to their headquarters.

Poor MSNBC dragged way behind as the apprehension events started breaking.




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